LUMBERTON — A largely untested emergency medical services billing company will now be collecting on bills owed Robeson County’s Emergency Medical Services despite the current billing company’s successful collection rate.
The county commissioners recently awarded the contract to the lowest of three bidders for emergency services bill collections, Med 1. Med 1 has been handling the county’s convalescent ambulance calls for the past few years, but emergency services billings have been done by EMS Management and Consultants, the second lowest bidder this time around.
Med 1, a Georgia-based company, submitted a bid that calls for it to be paid 5 percent of what is collected in billings. The next lowest bidder, Lewisville-based EMS/MC, would have taken about 5.5 percent of the total collections as its compensation for services provided.
EMS/MC has served as the county’s EMS bill collector for the past seven to nine years, according to recently retired EMS Director Greg Bounds.
“During my time there they did a great job,” he said. “We always had a great relationship with them.”
Patrick Cummings, the county’s interim EMS director, said that during the past year EMS/MC collected about $4 million of the $7 million that the county EMS billed for services. The company’s share of the take under its current contract was 6 percent, he said.
“We normally bill about $7 million a year and collections have been running at more than $3 million to $4 million a year,” he said. “The company’s share of collections this year at the 6 percent was about $237,000.”
According to EMS/EMC’s web page, the company is the largest billing company focused exclusively on emergency medical services in the United States. It serves 230 clients across the country.
On the other hand, Med 1, which utilizes the consulting services of Pembroke businessman Greg Bryant, reportedly has no “911 EMS clients.”
Bounds, however, said that Med 1 shouldn’t be considered totally inexperienced when it comes to billing ambulance services.
“They have been answering about 12,000 convalescent ambulance calls a year and do their own billings,” he said. “In many ways convalescent billings are tougher than emergency billings to collect. It’s harder to get the government to pay for convalescent services than emergency services.”
If Med 1 can collect $4 million as did the previous billing company, Robeson County will be able to save about $20,000 over the next year based on the difference between 5 and 5.5 percent. Cummings, however, doesn’t think $4 million can be collected by Med 1 in its first year of providing emergency services collections for Robeson County.
“It takes a couple years to get things started,” Cummings said. “Only time will tell.”
Although Bounds praised the ability of EMS/MC to collect bills, he also said that it will take time to determine how effective Med 1 will be.
“It’s like a marriage,” he said. “You don’t know how things will work out until you try it.”
The decision was made during the meeting of the county commissioners on April 17. Commissioner Jerry Stephens made the motion, which earned a second by Raymond Cummings, and then the motion passed unanimously.
The one-year contract takes effect July 1, the beginning of the next fiscal year.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.