Ambulance service seeking loan until collections issue fixed

Carson City's ambulance service is asking the city for a $150,000 loan until it is able to catch up on billing collections.

The ambulance service's problems began last year when it hired an outside contractor to handle the billing. That contractor sent out thousands of erroneous bills in January and continues to be plagued by collection problems.

The Board of Supervisors will consider approving the loan request during its meeting Thursday.

If the loan is granted, the money should be returned to the city's coffers by August, said Fire Chief Stacey Giomi.

The money might not be used if collections in June are sufficient, he said.

Billing used to be done by the fire department. Advanced Data Processing Inc. replaced the employee who did the work when she retired from the city last year.

"And we don't want it back," said Vincent Pirozzi, the fire department's battalion chief in charge of emergency medical services.

It has been a long and complicated process moving records from the city's database to the data processing company. Hiring a new employee to do the billing, training them and restoring the billing records to the city would be costly and daunting, he said.

The billing snafu earlier this year by the company caused at least 1,500 people to receive bills for services they didn't use. Pirozzi said collection of payments by the contractor is improving and that collection goals were reached for May.

If ADPI can manage to do the same thing in June and July it's likely to continue doing the job for four more years, Pirozzi said.

"We will have to look for alternatives," he said, such as seeking another contractor or bringing the work back as a city employee task, if the contractor doesn't meet expectations, he said.

"I would prefer the billing go back to the city," said resident Jan Woodruff, 77. She was one of the residents who was sent a $1,200 bill for services she didn't receive.

Woodruff also said she didn't have enough information about the billing process to be sure whether that would be the best thing, but said receiving the erroneous bill in January "was a big shock."

ADPI charges the city 4.95 percent of what it collects to do the billing.

The city's ambulance service is classified as an enterprise program, which means that it is supported directly by users. The program receives no tax money.

Rate hikes are being sought for specific tasks done by the ambulance employees, and are in response to reduced Medicare compensation rates.

Ambulance rates have been an area of concern because it's a necessary and expensive service to provide. Contractors aren't interested in providing ambulance services to cities with populations of less than 100,000 because it isn't profitable, Giomi said.

If approved, the rate increase is expected to bring an additional 5.2 percent in revenue to the city, and would take effect July 10.

Residents using CC Care, the ambulance program that allows residents to a pay a flat annual fee for service, $50 for individuals and $75 for households, won't be affected by the proposed increases.

About 60 percent of the city's ambulance patients are part of the Medicare or Medicaid systems; up to 20 percent more are insured.

No more than 5 percent of them are members of CC Care. Roughly 15 percent of the patients aren't in a program and have to pay the bills out-of-pocket - a group that often isn't able to pay the city back, Giomi emphasized.

The program's budget for the fiscal year ending June 30 is $2.9 million.

• Contact reporter Terri Harber at tharber or 882-2111, ext. 215.

If you go

What: Carson City Board of

Supervisors meeting

When: 8:30 a.m. Thursday

Where: Sierra Room, Carson City Community Center, 851 E. William St.


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