$1M in uncollected Ohio EMS billing revenue won’t impact services
The revenue helps pay for 29 full-time firefighters, and the city plans to improve its collection process
By Michael Cooper
SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — A levy that supports the police division and collections from Springfield’s EMS billing have continued to drop, meaning the city may have to spend $2.1 million to fill that gap.
The subsidies come as a result of a dip in collections from a 3-mill property tax for the special police levy fund and a change in billing procedures from emergency medical services squad runs for the fire division, according to Springfield officials.
The city is projected to spend about 57 percent of its general fund on public safety, according to its preliminary budget.
The special police levy fund is intended to pay for 30 full-time police officers, but it is projected to come up about $1.1 million short next year. The fire service enhancement fund uses EMS billing revenues to pay for 29 full-time firefighters, but also likely will be about $1 million short.
The fire enhancement fund’s projected revenue — which is collected from insurance service charges for squad runs — was about $3 million last year with no other subsidy from the general fund.
However only about $2.25 million was collected this year due to billing changes from the city’s vendor. The city will spend about $835,000 from its general fund this year to offset that drop.
“It was an unexpected problem we’ve encountered,” Springfield Finance Director Mark Beckdahl said.
The city is projected to collect about $2.5 million from service charges next year, but is expected to spend about $3.4 million, including on salaries and benefits for 29 firefighters and the vendor that handles the EMS billing.
The city currently charges about $930 for an advanced life support service and $586 for a basic life support service. The fire division places codes on the services rendered from each squad run and a third-party vendor decides whether to charge for a basic or advanced service based on established medical billing criteria.
In 2013, the city’s previous vendor, McKesson Services/Med3000, received an outside review of its billing processes, which suggested the company was overly aggressive, said Springfield Fire Chief Nick Heimlich. After the review, the charges went from about 90 percent billed at the higher advanced service charges to 50 percent billed at that level, resulting in the lost revenue.
“The last part of 2013 and 2014 hit us very hard as far as revenue projection is concerned,” Heimlich said.
After 12 years with McKesson Services/Med3000, the city went through a bidding process and selected a new bidder this month. The contract is for about $216,000 next year, according to the preliminary budget, a slight savings.
The company is optimistic that it will improve collections through aggressively searching for delinquent accounts, Heimlich said, and adding new technology to make the billing process more efficient.
The fire division responded to about 16,000 calls for fire and emergency medical services last year. It’s on target to have a similar amount this year.
Despite the loss in revenue, Heimlich said the fire division has no plans to change the way it provide services.
“We’re going to continue to discuss the way we provide services with an emphasis on making sure the citizens get the correct services,” Heimlich said.
The special police levy fund is projected to bring in about $2.3 million from property taxes, but it costs approximately $3.4 million to pay the salaries and benefits for 30 full-time police officers and other services — leaving more than a $1 million shortfall.
Springfield has had issues projecting revenue from the police levy due to delinquencies, Beckdahl said.
The city budgeted for about $2.1 million to come in from the levy for this year, with a $700,000 subsidy. But the collections came in at about $2 million, increasing the subsidy to $800,000.
The assessed valuation in property in Springfield has also dropped about 6.1 percent over the past year, Beckdahl said.
“It impacts what we collect in the way of property taxes,” Beckdahl said.
©2014 Springfield News-Sun, Ohio