DOBSON — County commissioners have added to the county manager’s oversight responsibilities, and the county will contract for EMS billing services.
Following a closed session at the Surry County Board of Commissioners recent budget workshop, county commissioners voted to place County Manager Chris Knopf in a position to help manage the operations of the county’s 911 communications center.
Knopf explained that the communications center is managed by both the Sheriff’s Office and Surry County EMS. Each entity assumed half of the responsibilities associated with managing the center. Knopf will add his expertise to the mix.
“I’ll help some from the budget and management sides,” explained Knopf in a subsequent interview.
Knopf indicated there may be a need for more long-range plans for the facility, citing forecasting for capital needs as one example.
The facility constitutes a tremendous county investment, and Knopf said he hopes to add a little to the management equation at the center.
Another action the board took after emerging from closed session was directing county management to begin negotiations with an outside billing agent for EMS services.
In August of 2016, Surry County Commissioners were made aware of some Medicaid billing issues which resulted in the county having to send back about $281,000 to the N.C. Department of Medical Assistance due to over-payment on transport bills for Medicaid patients.
Other payments to the state, which could be in excess of $1 million, could result from the billing error.
However, Knopf did not associate the decision made by commissioners with the Medicaid billing issues.
“It wasn’t the result of the quality of work in our EMS department,” said Knopf.
Knopf explained the county will look to EMS Management & Consultants (M.C.) for future billing. The company represents 50 of the 100 counties in North Carolina, and he is “thoroughly impressed” with the company.
The county manager explained there is a staggering amount of liability associated with EMS billing. The move will protect the county.
“The liability alone is enough to go to a third party,” added Knopf.
EMS M.C. has teams of employees trained in medical coding and auditors to review claims. The company even has a legislative liaison to advocate for its clients in Raleigh, said Knopf.
The move also won’t have a lot of effects on what EMS employees who handle billing are doing for the county, according to Knopf. They will simply move into a role of coordinating with the outside billing agent.
The charge for the services is yet to be determined. Knopf said the county will negotiate the charge as a percent of the bills.
That stated, the county manager also noted EMS M.C. has access to patient information and records which would not be available to the county. Such access should allow the company to be more effective in collecting monies due for services provided by the EMS department.
Knopf said he hopes and foresees increases in the rate of collections will outweigh any fees charged by the firm.