City developing policies for EMS collections

Published 11:27 pm Saturday, January 16, 2010

City officials are in the process of developing new policies for collecting bills for emergency medical services.

A routine audit by Robinson, Farmer, Cox Associates last year found the city is collecting only about 40 percent of amounts billed for ambulance services. A letter from the firm indicated there apparently are no established policies and procedures in place to aid “aggressive” collection of the relatively new source of revenue.

“We recommend the city establish policies and procedures which will provide guidance for management in these areas,” the firm wrote in a letter to city officials.

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Suffolk Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Brian Spicer participated in a meeting this week to begin developing policies, he said.

“Yes, we are aware of it,” Spicer said. “We are attempting to address it as we speak.”

Currently, a person who receives ambulance services will receive three letters from a third-party billing company until payment is received, Spicer said. The first letter requests health insurance information and indicates the cost of services. The second and third letters, a month apart, request payment of the portion of the bill not covered by insurance.

However, so few bills are collected because no further action is taken if the letters do not elicit payment, Spicer said.

“We are working to get the policies to put some action in place,” he added.

Spicer stressed no one is denied emergency services based on the patient’s ability to pay.

“When our guys show up, we’re there to take care of your medical needs,” Spicer said. “We’re not there to worry about the billing.”