City ends deal with private ambulance-collection firm| [8/22/06]

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Citing a poor record on ambulance bills, Vicksburg terminated its deal Monday with a local collection agency.

Kay, Marley and Associates, 3108 Halls Ferry Road, will no longer track down delinquent customers of the Vicksburg Fire Department-based service that extends countywide.

The unanimous vote authorizes City Clerk Walter Osborne to begin advertising for a new provider.

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&#8220Their performance was not good,” said Mayor Laurence Leyens. &#8220The impression I get is that they just sent out a few bills, and if money came in, great, but they didn’t really work it.”

Representatives of Kay, Marley and Associates could not be reached for comment.

For the coming year, the city projects a $3.2 million total outlay for ambulance and rescue operations with about $1.8 million to be recouped from users of the ambulance service or their public or private insurance providers.

The remaining $1.4 million will be paid, in almost equal shares, from city and county general funds.

The city employs two agencies, one to bill Medicare, Medicaid and other public and private insurers and one to collect from those who do not respond to the initial bills.

Nonpayments added up to about $1.3 million since last October, the start of the current fiscal year, said Strategic Planner Paul Rogers, but the decision to terminate the firm was not a result of failing to reach an established standard, he said.

&#8220I’m not sure there’s a number” the city sets as a benchmark, Rogers said. &#8220We just think they could do better.”

The agency assigned to send initial bills to insurers, Healthcare Consultants, was retained.

The next agreement signed with a private agency will also include collecting fines on gas and utility bills, police fines and possibly cemetery fines, for those who do not fulfill the perpetual care license in the city’s Cedar Hill Cemetery, Rogers said.

Monday’s move comes less than three weeks after the Board of Mayor and Aldermen agreed in principle to a revised interlocal agreement with the Warren County Board of Supervisors.

Both local governments are finalizing spending plans to start Oct. 1. Supervisors have been paying the city about $350,000 per year and will increase the county’s share to $300 per run, which may top $600,000 annually.

The county does not pay for &#8220basic life support” trips made by ambulances for mostly non-emergency calls such as transfers of patients from their homes or nursing homes to medical appointments. Those are usually covered by private or public health insurance programs.

The source of the $300 figure is the average loss per run, Rogers said. The city keeps five front-line ambulances and five crews on duty around the clock at an average total cost per-run of between $1,200 and $1,300.

In other business, the board: