Thursday, June 19, 2014

City Council approves contract to outsource ambulance billing

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 5:01 PM

click to enlarge An angry crowd protests ambulance billing at City Council chambers
  • An angry crowd protests ambulance billing at City Council chambers
City employees with fluorescent-colored shirts packed Kansas City, Missouri's City Council meeting on Thursday, sporting signs warning of retribution in next year's election if council members approved the outsourcing of ambulance billing jobs.

But a 7-4 majority was not persuaded by the crowd and approved a contract with Advanced Data Processing to handle billing those who need ambulance services in Kansas City.

Kansas City staffers think the outsourced service will save the city money over staffing that service in-house. Some members of the council think the city doesn't do a very good job of collecting those bills. The city projects $800,000 in annual savings with outsourced billing.

John Sharp, a second-term councilman from south Kansas City, led a lengthy protestation against the contract, saying the city was entering into a one-sided agreement.

"It's a great contract for them (Advanced Data Processing)," Sharp says. "It's not a great contract for the taxpayers."

The city's billing department collected $16.3 million in 2013. Sharp says the Advanced Data Processing contract requires the contractor to collect the equivalent of $250 per ambulance transport, which works out to $16.07 million if the city has the same number of transports in a year with the private company (64,280) as it did last year.

Sharp also pointed out that several cities, counties and ambulance districts ranging from Colonial Heights, Virginia, to Memphis, Tennessee, and even Johnson County jettisoned Advanced Data Processing or its subsidiary Intermedix after experiencing billing problems and customer privacy breaches with the company.

But a memo sent by Councilwoman Jan Marcason to a city staffer relays positive feedback from other Intermedix customers, like North Kansas City Fire Department and the Omaha Fire Department and several others.

"For the taxpayers, for the city, this is a good deal," Marcason said.

An audience of about 30 city employees hissed at the council's vote, lamenting their decision to outsource the jobs.

Bishop Tony Caldwell of Community United Kansas City warned of consequences in next year's elections for those who approved the outsourcing contracts - at least those who are running again.

"They're going to come out to vote," Caldwell said after the meeting. "People are tired of not being represented in Kansas City."

Those voting yes were James, Cindy Circo (termed out), Dick Davis, Scott Wagner, Jim Glover, Marcason (termed out) and Russ Johnson (termed out). Voting no were Sharp (termed out), Michael Brooks, Ed Ford (termed out) and Melba Curls. Jermaine Reed and Scott Taylor were not at the meeting.


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