Trending Topics

Cleveland officials outsource ambulance billing after drop in collections

Collections dropped nearly 50% last year to $8.5M, compared to 2021 and 2022′s collections of $15.8 and $14.4M


Cleveland EMS building.

Joshua Gunter/TNS

By Courtney Astolfi

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland City Council agreed this week to outsource billing for emergency medical services.

The move means city workers will no longer be handling EMS bill collections, and they’ll instead be handled by an outside firm who has yet to be hired.

The change was pitched by Mayor Justin Bibb as a way to hopefully increase collections on outstanding ambulance and healthcare bills. Collections tumbled nearly 50% in 2023 to $8.5 million, compared to 2021 and 2022′s collections of $15.8 and $14.4 million.

City Council was initially hesitant to approve the change. Some members had expressed concerns that the city has been increasingly outsourcing tasks to private companies that have traditionally been handled by in-house public employees.

But Bibb’s staff had pitched the move as a way to ultimately increase the amount of money Cleveland collects on EMS bills, saying that many Ohio cities, including Columbus and Cincinnati, have already moved from in-house collections to an outside contractor.

With hiring challenges — and ever-changing complexities of complying with the federal government’s Medicare and Medicaid billing rules – Cleveland bill collectors have struggled to keep up.

The city’s backlog of EMS bills had grown from an average of 10,000 to over 50,000 by the end of January, representing some $13 million in uncollected bills, city Controller Jim Gentile said during a January hearing.

Gentile said an outside firm that specializes solely in medical billing will, ideally, be better equipped to adapt to changing federal rules.

City officials forecasted that an outside vendor, once hired, might be able to cut down on the backlog and collect potentially $11 million this year.

©2024 Advance Local Media LLC.
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.