Lucas County's largest ambulance company has agreed to limit what it charges for routine ambulance transports in the county after weeks of resistance.
MedCorp officials changed their mind, so all "basic life support" runs in Lucas County are now capped at $500 per person, per transport, effective today. Mileage is capped at $9 per mile.
Ambulance companies are also banned from upgrading runs to the more expensive "advanced life support" if the county has requested a basic life support transport. Other private ambulance companies in the county have already agreed to the limits.
Lucas County is served by four private ambulance companies for most routine ambulance transports: MedCorp; LifeStar, which is owned by Mercy Health Partners; Rumpf Ambulance; and ProMedica Health System, which recently began sending ambulances to some accident scenes.
More severe injuries in Lucas County are generally handled by one of the county's 10 Life Squads and are referred to as "advanced life support" transports because they involve the use of paramedics rather than less-qualified emergency medical technicians or EMTs. The county does not directly bill patients; instead, the service is funded by tax revenues. Private ambulance companies bill insurance, government programs, and/or the patient to recover their costs.
County commissioners set limits on those costs in July after hearing complaints from citizens about wide variations in how much ambulance companies were charging. County officials were also concerned that many runs were being improperly upgraded to advanced life support runs, which they maintained shouldn't have occurred because they were not, in most cases, asking private companies to provide such transports.
Because only the county dispatches ambulances to emergencies, commissioners said they had an obligation to ensure citizens were billed fairly. The cap was put on hold, however, while the county tried to persuade MedCorp to agree to the limits.
"We had no choice," Richard Bage, MedCorp president, said yesterday. He said the county could have chosen to stop assigning calls to MedCorp if it did not sign the rate cap agreement.
Mr. Bage questioned why the county didn't agree to a MedCorp compromise proposal of limiting direct charges to patients at $295 but with no cap on what MedCorp could bill insurance companies.
Dennis Cole, county EMS director, said county officials decided such a move wouldn't solve the inconsistency problem with billing. He also said insurance companies could react by refusing to provide coverage on accidents in Lucas County.
Mr. Cole said the rate cap is a temporary measure. The county hopes to work out new contracts with all the private ambulance firms by January.
Although Mr. Cole said he expects limits will still be included in those new contracts, Mr. Bage said he'll try to get county officials to remove the cap.
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