County roles the dice with new EMS biller

We would put an action by the Robeson County Board of Commissioners during its April 17 meeting under the category of “Things that make you go hmmmmm.”

Commissioner Jerry Stephens made the motion, Raymond Cummings seconded and it was unanimously determined that the county accept a low bid from a Georgia company with a strong local tie to handle billing for Emergency Medical Services.

The county can, of course, point to the fact that the company had a low bid as the reason why, but the savings would be nominal, and our guess is there will be a loss of money in the short term that might even endure. The more this decision is scrutinized, we are sure the more questions would be apparent, for which answers are probably unlikely.

But let’s do some math first.

EMS Management and Consultants, which is headquartered in Lewisville near Winston-Salem, has been handling Robeson County’s emergency services billing for close to a decade, which suggests the company has done a good job. This year its contract is to collect 6 percent, meaning when the county receives $100 reimbursement, $6 goes to EMS/MC. The company this year submitted a bid for 5.5 percent to continue the contract.

That bid, however, was higher than one submitted by Med 1, a Georgia-based company that has a consulting relationship with a Pembroke businessman who is active locally on the political scene, putting his financial support behind preferred candidates.

For the equation, let’s say that Med 1 succeeds in collecting $4 million for emergency services, the approximate amount that EMS/MC had for the most recent year. Based on the difference between 5 percent and 5.5 percent, that is a savings of $20,000 for the county.

The question, which only time can answer, is will Med 1 be as successful in collecting what is owed as has been EMS/MS, which claims it 230 clients across the country are more than anyone else. It has a track record locally of success.

Med 1, on the other hand, doesn’t handle billing for emergency services, though it does have the contract for convalescent ambulance services in the county, which includes billing.

We had several people in positions of know suggest to us this decision was political, and that Med 1 is a gamble. But the only person willing to go on the record was Greg Bounds, the recently retired director of Emergency Medical Services.

Bounds praised both companies, saying that EMS/MC did a good job, and cautioned not to read too much into the lack of experience Med 1 has for billing emergency services. He pointed out that Med 1 has experience billing for convalescent ambulance care, which he categorized as a more difficult collection than emergency services.

Still, it will be new ground for Med 1 to plow, and if there is a drop-off in collections, than the theoretical $20,000 in savings based on the $4 million figure will be swallowed up quickly.

It seems the county has traded a sure bet for one that comes with risk.

The question, which you are as capable of answering as are we, becomes: Why?

comments powered by Disqus