The Baltimore County Fire Department plans to begin recouping patient transport costs from private insurers, Medicare and Medicaid and investing those funds in public resources.
A proposal to begin billing and collecting funds for emergency medical transports from private insurers, Medicaid and Medicare is scheduled for County Council discussion on July 28 and a Council vote on August 3. The proposal includes contracting with MED3000 Inc., a Pittsburgh-based health care management company, to handle billing and collection.
Across Maryland and the nation, such billing and collection has become a standard, accepted part of Fire administration and an important mechanism for offsetting the costs of medical transport. In Maryland, Calvert and Baltimore counties are the only jurisdictions that do not charge insurers for transport fees or levy a fire tax to help cover the cost of such transports. EMS service accounts for the overwhelming majority of calls received by fire departments.
Baltimore County residents will not be personally responsible for paying for ambulance transport as a result of this change. Residents without insurance, residents with insurance co-pays and residents whose insurers refuse to pay for transport will not be responsible for transport fees; their local tax dollars will be considered payment toward the fee.
“No county resident will pay one penny out of his or her own pocket for ambulance service,” said Fire Chief John J. Hohman.
The County will seek payment for emergency transport from non-county residents and their insurance companies. However, no resident or non-resident should ever hesitate to call 911 in a medical emergency; no one will be denied transport based on ability to pay.
Millions in New Revenue
County officials estimate that the new transport fees – levied on approximately 85,000 medical calls annually – may generate as much as $26 million per year in future years, after the program is fully implemented. This revenue will be placed in the County’s general fund.
The program is scheduled to begin September 1.
The County’s 33 volunteer fire companies – especially the 21 companies that provide medical service – will benefit from the transport fees. The BCVFA and BCoFD plan to develop a revenue sharing program in which transport fee funds will help companies that provide medical service cover reasonable EMS-related operating expenses. The fees will benefit the companies that do not provide EMS service by freeing up other funds for maintenance, equipment, fuel and training.
In a recent report, the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association strongly endorsed billing insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare for emergency transport.
How the Transport Fees Will Work
The new fees will be $700 or $750 per transport, depending upon the level of care required. In addition, private health insurers, Medicare and Medicaid will be billed $10 per mile of transport.
Other important information:
- The new fees will be levied only when a patient is transported by medic to a hospital; EMS calls that do not involve transport will not involve a fee. Patients who refuse transport will sign a form documenting their refusal.
- All patients will be transported regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay.
- No payment will be collected at the time of transport, and EMS responders will not seek patient insurance information. EMS responders will obtain authorization to bill the patient’s insurer along with permission to transport. After transport, the contractor, MED3000, will work with the hospital to obtain the patient’s information.
- Non-county residents who use Baltimore County EMS transport will be billed for transport fees not covered by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. The County will seek collection of these fees.
- MED3000 customer service representatives will handle questions or concerns about billing and insurance related to medical transport.
MED3000 will receive about 4 percent of the amount collected based on the annual average cost per transport.