In a time of budget tightening, dwindling revenue, and a growing population, charging for emergency transportation services could help the Truro Township Fire Department’s bottom line, but residents will not see the change in their wallet if they need to be taken to the hospital.
Truro Fire Chief Jerry Foltz said the township could begin charging for EMS transport as early as the start of 2008, but the only people paying the bill would be private insurance carriers and Medicare, who already roll the cost into policies.
Federal law requires insurance premiums to cover emergency transport, but, in the past, fire departments did not collect on fees charged for emergency service. It was paid to the hospital, which billed patients a replacement charge for supplies used during an emergency transport, re-stocked the fire department, and pocketed the revenue.
Eventually, fire departments throughout the area decided to take the opportunity to collect on the revenue allowed them by the federal government. The Truro Township trustees approved legislation at their Oct. 4 meeting to begin the EMS billing process and contract with Med3000 to handle insurance claims. Emergency runs not involving hospital transport will not be billed.
Although the township plans to issue their own claims for reimbursement through the billing company, instead of the hospital, residents can expect no change in service and should never receive a bill, only a statement, according to Foltz. With the change in policy, the township will now charge a flat fee, instead of the hospital, and cover the cost of its own supplies.
"We’re one of the last to go through this," said Foltz. "It’s something people have been paying for all along to their insurance companies, so instead of the money going to the hospital, it’s coming to us. Our costs go up just like everyone else, and this is a way of saving money and not having to go back to the voters. We’ll have to keep more supplies on hand because we won’t be getting it from the hospital and the revenue we receive can only be used for EMS supplies, but that can go for things like equipment and vehicles. We haven’t worked out all of the particulars of the contract. I just gave it to the trustees and we’ll be going over that, but I expect we’ll be ready to start EMS billing by the beginning of the year."
Med3000 retains seven percent of what it collects from insurance companies and Medicare. The remaining 93 percent covers the cost of supplies, such as drugs, IVs, and bandages and equipment; vehicles; manpower; and maintenance.
Madison Township began billing for EMS transport this year and Jackson Township, which covers the Grove City area started the practice in April 2006, is receiving between $105,000 and $110,000 a month in claims. Jackson Township Fire Chief Lloyd Sheets said he had only one regret about billing for transport of emergency patients to local hospitals-he wished he had done it sooner.
According to Sheets, the city of Dayton began billing for EMS transport nearly two decades ago, but it took a while for the concept to gain acceptance in central Ohio. Entities like Truro Township adopted a wait and see approach when Columbus started the practice, but the majority of surrounding departments now collect for services through companies such as Med3000.