21 July 2015
Starting Sept. 1, Fluvanna County residents will have to pay for ambulance rides for the first time ever. The newness of the program has left some residents with questions about how cost recovery will work.
Why did supervisors approve cost recovery?
The Board of Supervisors approved fees for ambulance transport plus a billing model and start date for the program on Wednesday night (July 15).
Insurance normally pays when people need ambulance transport to the hospital, Emergency Services Coordinator Cheryl Elliott explained to supervisors. “We have been leaving money on the table,” she said, by not collecting fees for what has thus far been a free service. By leaving that money untouched, Elliott continued, the county is saying it would rather spend tax dollars to fund emergency medical services than take advantage of money that is sitting ready for that purpose.
Fire and rescue in Fluvanna County cost $2.4 million yearly, Elliott said, funded by Fluvanna taxpayers and those who give direct contributions to agencies. “We’d like to see the insurance companies take a little more of that cost,” she said.
How much will cost recovery bring in?
It’ll take a couple years to really get a sense for what kind of return the county can expect on cost recovery. Fees have been set at 125 percent of Medicare’s allowable charge, which right now translates into costs per ambulance ride of $444 to about $762, with mileage charges of $13.78 per mile for miles 1-17 and $9.18 per mile for every mile thereafter.
Based on these figures, Elliott estimated receiving between $368 and $386 per transport, resulting in an annual intake of between $754,787 to $791,723.
What is compassionate billing?
Supervisors settled on compassionate billing as the model for Fluvanna’s cost recovery program.
In compassionate billing, the full amount charged goes to insurance first, Elliott explained. Insurance will likely pay a portion of that amount. Medicare, she said, may pay about 80 percent. The balance of the bill will then go to the patient.
Patients will receive bills, then 30- and 60-day notices from EMS|MC, the billing company hired by Fluvanna. Under a compassionate billing system, unpaid balances are eventually written off rather than sent to collections.