New manager accuses Mich. EMS of overbilling

He cites 41 instances of patients being charged for transport in an ALS ambulance without a medic on board


By Michelle Merlin
The Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.— Elk Rapids Township's emergency medical crews wrongly transported patients in an Advanced Life Support ambulance without a paramedic, a matter that could cost the township thousands of dollars, the new EMS manager charged.

Matt Holtcamp, interim manager for the township's emergency medical services, and director of operations for newly contracted Mobile Medical Response, Inc., said the service wrongly billed patients for transport on occasions when a paramedic was not in the ambulance. He also said EMS workers misreported which of the township's two ambulances went out on the calls.

“When you take an Advanced Life Service ambulance and remove the paramedic … you did not have a licensed ambulance any more," Holtcamp said at a township meeting last month. "Forty-one times, state law was violated right here in Elk Rapids."

Former ambulance service leaders disputed Holtcamp's allegations.

Holtcamp's contention came shortly after township officials voted to outsource their ambulance service to Mobile Medical Response, a controversial move that divided the township and prompted a recall election Tuesday, which all of the incumbent officials won.

Eileen Hedin, the township's former EMS chief, did not return requests for comment, but said at the meeting that no fraud was committed.

"Most of what Matt said is incorrect, and I'm very disturbed by it," Hedin said. "(What happened) will come out and it will show that you have been very confused."

Christine Keenan, former administrative assistant for the Elk Rapids service, said she believes the 41 calls fall under an exception to the rule.

"With the contract amount and the revenue that MMR will collect, they have over 600,000 good reasons to cast aspersions on the current EMS system in Elk Rapids Township," Keenan said.

The township's EMS service was upgraded to Advanced Life Support almost two years ago. The switch caused a $150,000 budget shortfall and prompted officials to look for new ways to run the service. Township officials agreed to a five-year contract with MMR last month that will cost taxpayers $225,000 annually. 

Some residents who pushed the recall said fraud accusations amounted to a pre-election ploy by township officials. 

"The purpose of the meeting was supposed to be an update on the takeover (by) MMR, and it turned out to be accusatory meeting, where a representative of MMR was accusing our local EMS of fraud and mismanagement," said Jim Braun, secretary of the Concerned Citizens Committee, the group that organized the recall. "I think it was somewhat of an aggressive attack on the service to compensate for or defend their own problems. I think it was totally uncalled for an it's accomplished nothing and increased ill-feelings."

Township Supervisor Bill White said that’s not the case.

"It's from reading the run reports and once you know about it you have to respond to it," White said. "It's a serious problem."

White said the township must return any improperly billed money within 60 days of discovering the problem. The township will hire Yeo and Yeo, a Saginaw-based accounting firm that has experience with medical billing, to audit the township's EMS, White said. The work will cost the township thousands of dollars. 

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©2014 The Record-Eagle (Traverse City, Mich.)

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