Kansas City Council repeals move to privatize ambulance billing

08/28/2014 5:09 PM

08/28/2014 5:24 PM

The Kansas City Council voted unanimously Thursday to repeal its controversial earlier decision to privatize ambulance billing.

The council took that action in response to petitions with 8,000 signatures opposing the outsourcing of city jobs.

“I think all the council realized there was a great public outcry against privatizing these jobs,” Councilman John Sharp said after Thursday’s vote.

Sharp had always argued against the privatization move and helped with the petition drive.

Fierce opposition from labor surfaced even before the City Council voted 7-4 on June 19 to privatize billing for emergency medical services. Following weeks of debate, the council at that time authorized the fire chief to enter into a five-year contract with Advanced Data Processing Inc., a subsidiary of Intermedix Corp.

Supporters said at the time that very few cities did ambulance billing in-house and that the move would save the city more than $700,000. They also said that the 16 city employees doing that function would be offered other city jobs at the same pay.

But opponents objected to the loss of these good-paying city jobs and cited some cities that had problems with Intermedix’s customer service. The municipal union for blue collar workers mobilized a referendum effort. They needed 7,144 valid signatures of registered voters to overturn the council vote and collected more than 8,000 signatures.

Council members then had two choices: to repeal the privatization ordinance on their own or to put the measure on the April ballot. They decided Thursday to bite the bullet and repeal without a public election.

But those who had supported the Intermedix contract said there is now a problem with the city budget, which anticipated at least $700,000 in savings. Councilman Scott Wagner noted that some city services, such as weed mowing or code enforcement, may have to be cut to make up for that difference.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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