Commonwealth Journal

Local News

April 25, 2013

A call to reason

Former EMS director weighs in on city’s decision to leave county and start own ambulance system

Somerset —

A former Somerset-Pulaski County EMS chief is weighing in on recent disagreements between city and county officials concerning a shortfall in the EMS budget. 
“I spent half my life building an EMS for the city and county government and needless to say I’ve been awfully disappointed,” said Billy Miller during Monday’s Somerset City Council meeting. 
Miller, who served as EMS chief between 1983 and 2003, and helped build the ambulance service into what it is today, appeared before both city council and Pulaski County Fiscal Court this week to encourage that officials work the matter out before the EMS service is restructured.  
“Why do we want to take months out of people’s lives and battle this thing back and forth, spend needless tax dollars doing it, and then end up having duplicate services?” Miller asked during Tuesday’s fiscal court meeting.
Miller said he was reluctant to join the fray, which began back in January after city officials asked that the county contribute $982,907 to go toward losses incurred due to what they said were billing changes through Medicare and Medicaid.
Miller on Tuesday said he didn’t understand that reasoning. He pointed out that his department budgeted for “uncollectibles “ — bills that they would never be able to collect on — yearly to ensure they didn’t go into the red.
Uncollectibles result after Medicare and Medicaid are billed. Those programs don’t cover all of the cost of an ambulance run, but the remaining bill cannot be sent back to the patient. That must be written off as a loss. 
Private insurance sometimes won’t cover the entire cost, and Miller said often times the EMS service cannot recover those leftover bills either. 
“I had them (uncollectibles) for 20 years,” Miller said on Tuesday. “Neither the city or county picked up my uncollectibles.”

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