Debbie Blank The Herald-Tribune
The Batesville Herald-Tribune
---- — Ripley County leaders are responsible for providing emergency medical services to citizens. “They contract out with the different units” in Batesville, Sunman, Milan and Versailles. Over the last decade, the amount paid annually to Batesville EMS 10 has risen just $3,500 to $37,500, Mayor Rick Fledderman pointed out at a special Jan. 27 Batesville Board of Works meeting as members contemplated signing the 2014 contract.
County EMS department heads have been meeting at least monthly since April 2013 to try and figure out solutions to revenue hardships, reported Batesville Fire Chief Todd Schutte, who oversees Batesville EMS 10. He said EMS money woes extend across the nation. “With the changes in the health care act, we’ll probably see a reduction of fees coming back to us for services …”
The mayor said, “I’ve challenged Todd to come up with some ways we can reduce some costs” or add revenue. The county did decrease the fee if a paramedic is needed on a Batesville EMS 10 run from $150 to $50. According to Schutte, “If we go with our projected numbers, it’s going to cost us $12,000 for a paramedic” in 2014 instead of $33,300 and $27,600 for 2013 and 2012, respectively, which could save around $20,000.
Schutte presented three tactics that could boost revenues:
• Change billing method. Of $352,676 billed last year, just $187,430 or 53 percent was collected. “We’re writing off almost as much as we’re taking in. That’s due to the way we’re billing.” He wants to change from an insurance billing method to soft billing. So far “none of the citizens in the area receive a bill for our services,” just insurance companies. In the future, after the insurance company pays, the remainder due will be the responsibility of the patient. “I feel that’s a fair way to do it.”
Member Gene Lambert asked about the outcomes of other EMS services that use collection agencies. Schutte said Rescue 69, Versailles, which uses a one, reported a “minimal amount” more dollars generated. Councilman Darrick Cox favored using a collection agency. “It gives you some backbone, some teeth,” he contended. Fledderman expected more discussion at the next council meeting. Lambert suggested changing the billing method for a year and reviewing numbers then.
• Change billing companies from Ambulance Billing Services Inc., Elkhart, to Medicount Management Inc., Cincinnati. Batesville EMS 10 currently collects an average of $309 per call. A Medicount Management official told Schutte, “I can beat that by $20” or perhaps even $50 per call for an estimated additional $12,000 annually. Schutte felt the proposed company would be more responsive. He checked references and found “they’re a good company to work with. There are not a whole lot of companies that do ambulance billing.”
Batesville’s contract with Ambulance Billing Services is up this month. The Ripley County contract states all EMS units must use the same company. The chief said every unit is in favor of Medicount Management except Milan, which hasn’t responded.The mayor told Schutte to have city attorney Lynn Fledderman look over the contract with the proposed firm.
• Start a nonemergency transport service from extended care facilities to Margaret Mary Health. For example, Batesville EMS 10 could take patients from The Waters of Batesville, St. Andrews Health Campus and the Sisters of St. Francis to the hospital or physician’s offices for tests when not on emergency calls. According to the mayor, “We’re still trying to work out the details.”
Schutte has contacted the three “and they’re all very interested,” but are waiting to study prices. He noted billing would be locked in by Medicare and Medicaid. If Batesville EMS 10 were to perform one one-way transport service each day (the hospital would return the patient when finished so EMS 10 wouldn’t have to wait), $66,000 in extra revenue could flow in, according to the chief.
He said “everybody else” has signed the county contract so it can’t be modified. The chief recommended signing, adding, “We are working very hard to get this changed for next year” with either more dollars or having access to a paramedic at no charge. The board of works voted to sign the contract. Fledderman said he has some objections to certain sections, but will work to modify them before the 2015 signing.
The meeting’s second topic also involved rescuers. City officials and firefighters have been worried about the condition of the fire station. At last June’s meeting, they discussed moisture causing some exterior blocks to shatter. At the time of construction in the late 1990s, that type of block was fairly new, and it was discovered later it should not be used on building exteriors because it is porous.
Fledderman said, “We have been in some discussions with structural engineer Nathan Walsman” about how to remedy the problem. Leaders sent informal requests for proposals to a few companies and Ollier Masonry, Batesville, responded. According to Schutte, “Ollier proposed putting a brick face on the whole building. The cost of that was outrageous.” The engineer said due to more weight, supporting walls would have to be added.
The new solution, costing an estimated $198,700, is to repair the cracked blocks, then cover them with a moisture membrane, then a less heavy brick overlay so the building would end up looking like Fullenkamp’s Sporting Goods’ facade. The mayor, who said this was the most cost effective answer, promised, “We will have this on the (Feb. 10) agenda.”
Clerk-treasurer Ron Weigel asked if the proposed contractor offers a warranty and the answer was yes.
Schutte said the aim of the firehouse’s new exterior “is to try to match the Memorial Building. This would give it that brick look.”
Debbie Blank can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 812-934-4343, Ext. 113.