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Higher EMS fees could generate $1.2M
Lee says other communities charge much more
County Commissioner Ron Lee says what the facility bills for its services is less than half of what other ambulance services charge.

Should the charges for Warren County’s Emergency Medical Service be increased?
Opposing viewpoints were voiced during last week’s Safety Committee meeting.
County Commissioner Ron Lee says what the facility bills for its services is less than half of what other ambulance services charge and increasing those rates will generate more than $1 million for the department.
“Our billing system is at 40 percent,” said Lee. “We aren’t even average. If we went up to the average of what everyone else charges, I’m talking about the 50 percentile, it would be $1.2 million more coming into our system. If we were up into the 90 percentile, it would probably be $2 to $3 million more.”
Lee contacted other ambulance services to see what they charge after objecting to the county entering into a three-year contract with AMB, a national ambulance and EMS full-service billing and revenue enhancement firm that specializes in obtaining payment for service provided by ambulances services. The company charges 5.75 percent per month of its net collection. However, the company promises to collect enough additional revenue to pay for its services.
When the contract was under review by the committee in March, Lee objected to hiring a company to bring in additional revenue stating, “I think we can generate that 5.75 percent ourselves” by updating software or sending the department’s billing employees for additional training.
This month, Lee added a third option to increase revenue -- that being to charge more for the department’s services.
“This is why I voted no last month and I think we’ve done a disservice to our county taxpayers,” said Lee. “We’ve sat on our laurels and we’ve had a good system. We’ve worked hard for the system, but we haven’t kept up with the charges on it. DeKalb County has $1,004 for a specialty care run to Nashville. Ours is $500. No wonder we don’t have the money to buy an ambulance. Let’s get our rates up where they should be so we can get our income to where we can afford to buy that ambulance we’ve been waiting on and waiting on.”
According to EMS interim director Preston Denney, raising rates might not increase revenue because the department’s rates are currently higher than what government-funded insurance will pay.
“Last year, we billed a little over $3 million and we collected right at $1.9 million,” said Denney. “The rest of it, we had to write off. Because we billed more than insurance would allow us to bill, they wouldn’t pay it. If we bill more, we would just have to write it off, unless it’s with private insurance. Medicare and TennCare has a set rate they are going to pay. Your private insurance will pay what you bill.”
On the committee with Lee are Commissioners Teddy Boyd, Carl D. Bouldin, Charles Morgan and Randy England.
Bouldin says increasing fees would be a disservice to taxpayers because the increase would come from the pocket of those individuals who are already funding the service through their tax dollars and have private insurance, not government insurance. 
“They’ll get that increase out of me,” said Bouldin. “I have private insurance and my deductible is $3,500. You are busting the hide of the taxpayers when you make people like me, who have private insurance and they don’t have government insurance, pay it.”
Lee added, “MedicOne gets $2.75 more per mile than we do. On a non-emergency call, they get $250 more than we do. On an ALS emergency, they get $300 more than we do.”
A private company like MedicOne is not funded by taxpayers, said Morgan, so their rates have to be higher and cannot be compared to those of Warren County EMS.
“I agree,” said Lee, “But if we don’t have a private company mentality, we are going to go back to the property taxpayer to fund it. We have to have a little more business mentality to try to get our prices up from the insurance companies.”
The discussion was tabled but could be brought up again during future committee meetings.