Red flags raised about ambulance billing service hired by city - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

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Red flags raised about ambulance billing service hired by city

KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) -

Red flags are being raised about Kansas City's new hire.

Cities across the country say they've had bad experiences with ambulance billing service Intermedix, but Kansas City, MO, says no company has a perfect record and its city council decided in a 7-4 vote to hire Intermedix to bill patients for ambulance use.

KCTV5 has obtained a stack of letters sent from cities including Dallas, Memphis, TN and Racine, WI, saying Intermedix overbilled, underbilled and, in some cases, didn't bill at all, ambulance riders in those cities.

In neighborhoods like Santa Fe on Kansas City's east side, ambulance calls are frequent.

"We have a lot of senior citizens within our community," said Joseph Jackson of the Santa Fe Area Council.

Jackson also lives in the Santa Fe neighborhood and is concerned a contract for the outsourced ambulance billing company Intermedix will leave his neighbors with a paperwork headache.

"Their past practices, business and personal are a real risk to the citizens and residents of Kansas City," Jackson said.

City Councilman John Sharp shared emails he received from cities like Dallas where Intermedix failed to recover the promised $21 million worth of services. Memphis said some people called the city after receiving a bill "but swear they have never been to our city," according to another email. Racine provided a laundry list of displeasure, including bad billing and poor customer service.

"32,000 patients of their clients for 27 agencies in 17 states had their identity compromised," Sharp said.

But nonetheless, the city said it's not a fair assessment of the country's largest EMS billing service.

"The city itself has had HIPAA violations where we have made mistakes. No agency is perfect," said Kansas City City Manager Troy Schulte.

Schulte said the good outweigh the bad for the company, including a cost savings of $770,000 a year.

"We operate a staff of about 28 people. They will do the same service with 10 people. We're saving money by reducing staff, in-house capacity for equipment, technology, software, all of those issues," Schulte said.

In the five-year contact with the company, city ambulance riders cost an average of $35 million a year. Intermedix promises to collect at least $16 million in the first year, but the number goes down after the first year. The city will also pay the company 4.5 percent commission, about $723,000, for its services.

"We could save a little on one hand and lose a lot more in revenue. Now how does that help the taxpayers?" Sharp asked.

Despite sounding the sirens, city administrators say they are false alarms.

"It's unfortunate that a company that has a national reputation as the largest provider for EMS services is being disparaged like that," Schulte said.

Intermedix hired the attorney for Kansas City company Polsinelli and former Kansas City Chamber of Commerce President Pete Levi to consult on the deal. A city spokesman says Levi's past involvement with the city had nothing to do with its decision to hire the Florida-based service.

Intermedix sent KCTV5 a statement saying it is excited to work with Kansas City and that the finance committee supports it.

The City Council voted Thursday and the contract passed 7-4.

Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) All rights reserved.

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