Insurers to get bill for city EMS calls

Annapolis expects to collect $400,000 under new law

April 11, 2007|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

A new law to bill insurance companies for ambulance rides in Annapolis will bring in as much as $400,000 annually to the city's coffers, officials said yesterday.

The anticipated funds have already been set aside in next year's budget and will go to the Annapolis Fire Department for salaries, equipment and maintenance. The department now provides emergency service free to sick and injured people.

The city council voted unanimously Monday night to pass the bill sponsored by Mayor Ellen O. Moyer.

"Most counties in the area do bill [for pre-hospital ambulance transport], and we should, too," Moyer said. "But we are only billing insurance companies, not people."

According to city officials, most commercial insurance programs and Medicare and Medicaid pay for medically necessary EMS transport.

Nationwide, about 70 percent of localities charge for EMS transport, including Baltimore City and Prince George's and Queen Anne's counties.

Starting as early as August, the city will contract with a third party that will bill insurance companies directly, at $245 per incident. If the patient lacks insurance, no further steps will be taken to collect.

Initially, the measure called for billing nonresidents of the city who lacked insurance, but it was later amended.

"What we don't want to get into is where someone doesn't have the money to pay and they fear calling for an ambulance," said Tim Elliott, the city's director of finance. "It is our duty to provide the service, but this will give us some help, because we have tremendous expense in this area."

Officials estimate that the city could expect to recover fees for about half of the 911 calls for ambulance service. Recovery rates typically vary from 30 to 80 percent in local jurisdictions.

In 2005, the most recent year for which numbers are available, the city recorded 4,181 emergency medical calls.

At a cost of $7 million per year, emergency service calls account for about 60 percent of the Fire Department's budget, Elliott said. The cost has increased, he said, because of tighter first-responder regulations.

Now, an ambulance and a fire engine, carrying four responders, are sent out for every emergency service call. Capt. Ed Hadaway, spokesman for the Fire Department, said that additional revenue would offset some of that cost and increase the readiness of the department.

"Under no circumstances will anyone be refused transport," Hadaway said. "And the quality of our service will be likely be increased because we'll be able to purchase new equipment and pay for increased training."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.