JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – County commissioners discussed the possibility of raising EMS patient rates once again at Monday evening’s workshop.
Increasing patient rates was voted on at last month’s meeting, but it failed for lack of a majority vote.
Campbell County Mayor E.L. Morton brought the issue back up Monday night and Commissioner Scotty Kitts said he planned to carry that resolution at next week’s meeting. Requested information regarding the patient rate increase proposal was also presented during the workshop. Commissioners heard from Seth Lowrance from the EMS’s billing company. Lowrance broke down what insurance companies would be paying and what individuals would be paying if the patient rate increase was approved.
Lowrance told commissioners that Campbell County was significantly lower than surrounding areas in what it billed for EMS patient rates.
“Medicare represents about 64 percent of your patient transports. Medicare has a set fee schedule that only allows a certain amount of reimbursement for various EMS services. Medicaid also has a set fee schedule for Tennessee. Those represent right at 19 percent of your transports, so 75 percent of the county’s EMS patients will not be affected at all one way or the other by the patient rate increase,” Lowrance told commissioners. He said only ten to 13 percent of the county’s population-those with commercial insurance using EMS transports-would be affected by the increase.
He told commissioners the county was losing around $350,000 a year on transporting Medicare patients and losing about $275,000 in Medicaid and around $250,000 from insured individuals for a total loss of around $830,000 a year.
“To help with that loss, I recommend increasing patient charges and commercial insurance charges to capture more money from the commercial insurance world so you can decrease tax subsidies,” Lowrance said.
He told commissioners EMS Director Bruce Perkins was “simply trying to bring the county in line for your area” and that if patient rates were not raised, the county would have to continue to subsidize the program from the tax base at even higher costs. According to Lowrance, raising the patient rates at the current proposed amount will generate around $75,000 to $80,000, but he also told the county they did not have a cap on what they could charge and if they raised them higher, they could bring in more revenue. It could also be increased incrementally each year based on consumer price index to account for yearly inflation.
Commissioner Rusty Orick, who is also on the EMS board, spoke to fellow commissioners saying he had been looking at this issue for a long time. He said if rates were not raised, then the county “was looking at needing to raise taxes.”
“If taxes go up, they go up on everyone, if patient rates go up, it only falls on those who use the service. I don’t want to overcharge anyone, but I don’t want for everybody to have to pay for this if we need to increase the taxes. It’s one or the other or a mix of both,” Orick said.
Perkins said he and Lowrance had met with finance director Jeff Marlow and these rate increases were recommended by all. Commissioner Zach Marlow said he would vote for it if it didn’t go into effect until April 1.
“I feel the citizens need ample notice,” Marlow said, adding that was the only reason he had not voted to approve it at last month’s meeting when the increase failed for lack of a majority vote. Morton said that was his recommendation that it not go into effect until April 1 too. Morton said the rate increases proposed were modest increases.
According to Orick, in eight years, the county has gone from having to subsidize the EMS department by $150,000 a year to now putting in around $1 million a year.
“It’s the trend of the industry, but we have to have an ambulance service,” Orick said.
Other business discussed included the “Potter construction issue” up the valley. Kitts said he was still getting complaints about the issue, and he was afraid it had “fallen by the roadside.”
Commissioner Lisa Lester said she was still concerned about the road issue as well and that it was full of pot holes and that there needed to be a turning lane for the Davis Chapel area and that turning into Food Lion was still dangerous. She asked the mayor if he could check into what else could be done to improve the situation.
Morton said he would contact TDOT and try to have some answer of what could be done to improve it by next Monday.
Commissioners will vote on workshop issues at next Monday evening’s meeting, which will be held via Zoom Feb. 15 at 6 pm. (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 02/09/2021-6AM)