Miss. County Departments May Bill for EMS Calls

Miss. County Departments May Bill for EMS Calls

News Feb 05, 2013

Feb. 05--GULFPORT -- Harrison County supervisors voted 3-2 Monday to allow American Medical Response to send a separate bill to patients when city and county fire departments respond to emergency medical calls.

However, a representative from AMR said while Gulfport expressed an interest in this, none of the cities have told AMR that they want to start billing for these services.

"This was an attempt to try to work with the municipalities who were concerned about extra charges when firefighters respond," said Butch Oberhoff, south district government relations manager for AMR.

Supervisors Marlin Ladner and Connie Rockco voted against the measure, saying residents already pay for their fire departments.

"I understand the problem, but taxpayers already are paying for that service," Ladner said.

The county recently negotiated a new contract with AMR, which included adding a line on patients' bills for a "first responder charge."

But Oberhoff said the company can't add that to the ambulance bill; it must be sent separately. Monday's action by supervisors amended the contract to allow AMR to send out bills for fire department response if the cities want to do that.

"Each department has the opportunity to decide if they want to go on calls," Oberhoff said. "The cities also could decide which calls to bill for."

He added that most insurance companies will pay for a first responder to go to an emergency call, and the fee would be $150. The bill would be sent to the patient, who could forward it to the insurance company.

Oberhoff said if the insurance companies don't pay, AMR will not attempt to collect the fee from the patient. He added that Medicare and Medicaid don't pay for firefighters to respond to an emergency.

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If any cities decide to do this, AMR would collect the money and turn it over to the cities.

"I would never vote to double charge people," Ladner said.

Pat Sullivan, fire marshal for Harrison County, said AMR met with the city and county fire departments to talk about this issue.

"I don't think it's as convoluted as it seems," he said. "We were asked to look at revenue on the table that wasn't being utilized."

Copyright 2013 - The Sun Herald

The Sun Herald
Melissa M. Scallan
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