Frederick to begin fee-for-service Oct. 1 on ambulance calls

Posted: September 26, 2013

The Winchester Star

Chad May, a firefighter/EMT-B with Frederick County Fire and Rescue, prepares a gurney for a Greenwood Volunteer Fire and Rescue ambulance after delivering a patient to the Winchester Medical Center emergency room on Wednesay. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

WINCHESTER — When Frederick County begins charging for emergency medical services on Tuesday, patients transported to the hospital will not see a bill.

However, under its new fee-for-service program (known as the EMS Expense Recovery Program), their insurance and health care providers will be billed for the transports in an effort to offset some of the costs incurred by the locality. Patients without insurance will not be billed.

The county’s 11 fire and rescue companies currently do not receive payments for any patients who are transported.

“There is no change in the way we do business,” Frederick County Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief Larry Oliver said Wednesday.

“If someone dials 911 we’re going to respond to their emergency just like we do today [and] provide care.”

The program was approved by the Frederick County Fire and Rescue Association, followed by the Board of Supervisors in separate votes in March.

Of the money received through the program, about 10 percent will be taken off the top to pay the third-party billing company, the salary for the county’s billing manager and EMS supplies, according to Oliver.

Frederick was able to be added to the contract that Winchester has with Premier Accounts Receivable Management — providing the county with the same service the city has.

The remaining money will be split between the transporting company and a special fund in the county’s Fire and Rescue Department, Oliver said.

“Until we get through probably the first year, we won’t know what kind of money we actually have to know what we’re going to do with it,” he said. “The money that’s going to be distributed to the volunteer companies will help pay for normal operational costs [and] it may help [with] the purchase of new EMS vehicles.”

He added that, with the money the county receives, the Fire and Rescue Department could look at adding additional emergency personnel in the future.

Transports will be priced according to the type of call responders receive. There are five categories of basic life support (BLS) and advanced life support (ALS) calls.

The price breakdown will be:

BLS Non-Emergency Base Rate: $431.

BLS Emergency Base Rate: $440.

ALS Non-Emergency Base Rate: $512.

ALS 1 Emergency Base Rate: $550.

ALS 2 Emergency Base Rate: $720.

There will also be an $11 charge per transported mile.

Based on 2010 data on the number of EMS transports run by county departments, the ordinance would generate slightly more than $1 million annually between 10 companies in the county if they saw a 70 percent collection rate from those whose health care paid for the transport. The county has 11 fire and rescue companies, but Reynolds Store Volunteer Fire and Rescue opted out of participation.

“In reality, the people that dial 911 should not see a big change in anything that happens from this point forward,” Oliver said. “The thing that’s on the back end of it that they won’t see is their insurance company’s going to get billed.”

Additional information on the EMS Expense Recovery Program is available online at fcva.us/departments/f-n/fire-rescue/operations-division/ems-transport-billing.

— Contact Matt Armstrong at marmstrong@winchesterstar.com