By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
The Cumberland County Emergency Services Committee approved an agreement to start using a third party medical billing company after commissioners met with the company and negotiated fees with the group during last week's committee meeting.
The committee met with Bill Harrod of Ambulance Medical Billing (AMB) and Corey Ricketson of ESO Software Solutions.
Cumberland County Fire Chief and EMS Director Jeff Dodson previously suggested a work session with AMB for commissioners to ask questions of the company.
Harrod of AMB told the committee, "I can guarantee an increase in your revenue of at least 10 to 15 percent or more. Check our references. They speak for themselves."
Harrod added that if he didn't meet that figure he would cut his fee in half until reaching their goal on revenue increases for the county.
The county has considered third-party billing in order to increase its collections for EMS/ambulance service bills that are going unpaid.
The committee discussed the idea last fall and sent out a Request For Proposals (RFP) for third-party billing companies.
Four companies submitted proposals last fall and Dodson said AMB was the company he favored.
Dodson said, "They come highly recommended from Rutherford County, Smith County and Canon County. They all use them and give a strong recommendation," Dodson said.
Harrod explained there are three contracts involved with the agreement. There is a contract between AMB and ESO Software Solutions for the software to be used, a contract between Cumberland County and AMB and a contract between ESO Software Solutions and Cumberland County.
"I'd like to have one person to go to if there is a problem," said 9th District commissioner Carmin Lynch. "I don't want you to tell me it's his (ESO's) problem if something goes wrong."
Harrod said he (AMB) would be the party to contact for any problems.
"We will work it out so there is only one throat to choke," Harrod said.
Joe Koester, 5th District commissioner, asked, "If we're not happy will we be able to pick up the billing again, or will we be out of business?"
"We will provide you with a file with all of the billing data and all info needed to continue. Will it be a mess? Yes," Harrod said.
Dodson asked Harrod what he could trim the fees down to make AMB better and incomparable to any other company for billing and allow them to still make some money.
"We have a couple of companies interested in working with us," Dodson said.
Harrod said there may be other companies, but they were the only one in Tennessee.
"Are there others with lower fees? Yes, but you will pay for it," Harrod said.
Originally charging a fee of 5.3 percent of the collections, Harrod said he could go down to 5.2 percent and supply 11 tough books (computers) for ambulances.
Dodson said Cumberland County was growing and call numbers are increasing.
Cumberland County Mayor Kenneth Carey Jr. agreed with Dodson and said the call volume was increasing according to a report he had just heard at the Central Communications Committee meeting.
Roy Turner, 7th District commissioner and Cumberland County EMS paramedic, said, "How about going to 5.1 percent and 12 tough books so the chief can have one also?"
After doing some figuring and "number crunching," Harrod said, "If you decide tonight to commit, I will go with 5.1.5 percent and 12 tough books."
Commissioners explained they could agree as a committee to commit and recommend it to the financial management committee or full commission.
"How long will it take you to get everything set up and running?" Turner asked.
Harrod said it was up to ESO and Ricketson of ESO said he could most likely have it set up within 30 days.
Allen Foster, 4th District commissioner, made a motion to agree to AMB's proposal at a rate of 5.1.5 percent of collection fees and 12 tough books with a guarantee of increasing collection revenues of 15 percent and recommend it to the financial management committee. Lynch supported the motion and it was unanimously approved.
They also asked county attorney Randal Boston to review the agreement and contract.
Mayor Carey told the committee he already checked all the references and "they came highly recommended by all."
The agreement will have to be approved by the Cumberland County Financial Management Committee before it will go into effect.