The protracted battle over who controls ambulance billing in Kansas City is far from over.
That’s good news for taxpayers, who stand to benefit if a subsidiary of Intermedix Corp. can help the city bring in more revenue to cover the costs of rides for patients. That would free up city funds to provide other services.
Mayor Sly James and a City Council majority earlier this year voted to privatize emergency medical services billing, which could have led to transferring about 16 city employees to other jobs. Supporters claimed annual savings could reach $700,000, and that few other cities did their own ambulance billing.
However, council member John Sharp harshly criticized Intermedix’s quality of work in other cities. He helped rev up a petition drive to save the jobs of the union workers.
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Last Thursday, the council — cowed by the petition drive — repealed its decision to fully privatize ambulance billing. That’s a victory for Sharp and the handful of union workers.
But supporters of privatization had a Plan B up their sleeves.
Mayor Sly James and City Council member Jan Marcason say the city is going to go ahead and hire an Intermedix subsidiary to provide consulting and software to help city employees collect added revenue from ambulance patients.
The contract would be for around $250,000, below the level requiring council approval. City Manager Troy Schulte said he can sign it on his own, once a good deal is struck with the firm.
James, through a spokeswoman, said, “In short, Intermedix is still going to be able to help us increase efficiency/collections, but the employees’ status will not be changed.”
Marcason called this a win for taxpayers and for employees. But the city isn’t reducing its costs by eliminating employees. And on the revenue side, Intermedix still has to help the city gain at least an extra $250,000 or more from patients just to cover its costs.