COUNTY NEWS: More money needed to pay ambulance contract

The Brown County Council approved moving more than $100,000 from the county’s rainy day fund to pay for the rest of the county’s ambulance contract with Columbus Regional Hospital at the July 15 meeting.

For 2019, the Brown County Commissioners budgeted $415,000 for ambulance service that would pay for services delivered in 2018, commissioner Diana Biddle reported at the June 17 council meeting.

She said there was $29,196 left over from the 2018 budget that paid for services rendered in 2017. That boosted the total in that budget line for ambulance service to $444,196. But the first bill the county received from CRH was for $486,000.

The county receives two bills in the year for the service. The first is 90 percent of what the projected bill will be.

“They bill the insurance, they pay bills, and then at the end of the year, whatever the difference is, we make them whole,” Biddle said.

The second bill was for $61,540.

The total bill for ambulance service in 2018 was $547,540. Biddle said she paid CRH $440,196. On July 15, the council was asked to approved transferring $107,344 to pay the remainder of the contract.

Biddle said the increase is a result of a change in the Medicaid billing reimbursement. “There was a loophole in some new rule that was created with Medicaid that allowed them to get a larger reimbursement. They closed that loophole,” Biddle said.

“They warned us about it. I left the original amount the same, $415,000, thinking there’s an extra $30,000 in there and we should be fine.”

However, ambulance runs also increased, Biddle said.

Biddle and county council Vice President David Critser said they still believe Brown County is better off in this contract than trying to operate an ambulance service by itself.

Outside of its contract with Brown County, Biddle said CRH covers more than $1 million in salaries and employee benefits, and that doesn’t include the cost of ambulances. “If we had to buy three ambulances, we would be $2 million into it before you put the first drop of gas into one of them, then another million for staffing. We’re getting a great deal at a half-million dollars with the contract,” she said.

Critser said the county was receiving services for about a third of the cost of what it would cost to do it alone. “Columbus Regional isn’t charging us anything. They’re just breaking even,” he said.

Last year, CRH reported doing 897 total runs in Brown County with gross revenue of $1,708 per run. Gross revenue does not account for expenses.