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new ambulance

David Oborny, left, Fire Chief Dan Miller, Alex Hartzell and Eric Kluever recently stand in front of a new ambulance commissioned by the Columbus Fire Department. The City of Columbus this week announced its intent to outsource its EMS billing services moving forward.

The City of Columbus is making some internal adjustments regarding the way it manages its emergency medical services (EMS) and fire department billing services.

Earlier this week, the Columbus City Council unanimously OK’d City Administrator Tara Vasicek to advertise a request for proposals to professional ambulance billing service providers to perform all billing related to the operations of the local fire and rescue department.

Vasicek said the city bills all Medicare and Medicaid patients who receive billable EMS services but doesn’t bill any other insurance providers. The majority of the billing workload is placed upon an employee within the city clerk’s office and is becoming too time-consuming of an undertaking.

“It takes about 50 percent of one, full-time employee’s time," Vasicek told the City Council this week. "As you are probably aware, HIPAA standards (and) billing standards for medical information are increasing all the time, and the workload at city hall is continually increasing …

“We are probably one of the last municipalities of our size that does ambulance billing services in-house.”

The fiscal impact of shifting away from the city’s traditional in-house method will ultimately be determined after proposals have been received and the contract is negotiated.

Typically, the fee for the billing services work is a percentage of the overall billing collected. This, in turn, provides an incentive to the billing service to maximize revenue, which ultimately benefits the City of Columbus and its residents, according to information provided by the city.

The other major advantage of the shift, Vasicek said, is that the move would free up 50 percent of one current employee's time to perform other work. For the past several years, the city water office has requested additional personnel, however, there hasn’t been room in the budget to make this happen. The proposed change, she said, would fill that request with no additional expense to the city’s budget by moving a current employee whose time is evenly divided between the water and clerk’s office, to work in water full time.

The action was unanimously approved by the governing body, however, Ward 3 Council Member Rich Jablonski encouraged the city administrator to set clear guidelines for how the operation would run through the outsourced billing service.

“In my experience with billing services, communication is always a problem,” he said. “I would make sure that you write in something into your proposal that they do that in a timely fashion. Unlike other agencies, they are not required to remit in a certain period of time, or time frame, any dollars they collect – they can hold your money."

Vasicek noted the contracted agency, per contract, would be required to remit within 45 days and the city would receive monthly reports by the 15th day of the following month.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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