Comptroller says Medina leaving too much uncollected ambulance revenue

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 May 2015 at 12:00 am

File photo by Tom Rivers – The Medina Fire Department heads down East Center Street on an ambulance call in January, a call that was outside the village.

MEDINA – The Village of Medina could do better boosting revenue for its ambulance service by getting more uncollected money from patients, and also by insisting other municipalities help pay for the service, according to the State Comptroller’s Office.

The Comptroller’s Office reviewed ambulance service billing records from Jan.1, 2011 to Sept. 10, 2014. It found Medina is due $1,012,326 in outstanding bills from patients, a number that rose each year from $186,125 in 2011, $194,194 in 2012, $241,832 in 2013, and $390,175 in about eight months of 2014.

The Medina Fire Department has been the primary ambulance provider for the towns of Yates, Shelby and Ridgeway since 2007. As part of that contract, the towns were supposed to reimburse the village on a quarterly basis for any uncollected bills for ambulance calls to the three towns. The three towns also agreed to an administrative fee incurred by a third-party billing agent for each bill prepared. That fee is currently $38.25 per bill.

The village never sent the towns an invoice for these bills, the Comptroller’s Office said.

Comptroller staff reviewed the bills and found the three towns owe the village $53,036 for uncollected bills in the three municipalities, plus $21,573 to the billing agent. That $74,609 breaks out to $33,809 for the Town of Yates, $13,935 for the Town of Shelby and $26,865 for the Town of Ridgeway.

The comptroller said the towns need to be billed regularly, and their bills reviewed by village officials. Medina needs to work to ensure “that village taxpayers are not subsidizing the cost of providing ambulance service to the towns,” according to the comptroller report.

Medina Mayor Andrew Meier responded to the Comptroller Office in an April 10 letter that the village works diligently to collect unpaid bills. However, Meier said the village doesn’t want to take residents, including many senior citizens on fixed incomes, to small claims court or subject residents to “significant harassment” from bill collectors, he said.

Medina has an 86.8 percent pay rate, which rates slightly better than average for the 18 municipal clients served by Medina’s ambulance billing provider, Meier said. Medina also receives an average of $434.20 per bill, which is about $20 higher than the municipal average, the mayor said.

The Village Board welcomes contributions from the three towns for the ambulance service, Meier said. However, he said there would be “extreme difficulty” in calculating each town’s share based on the original formula.

“Indeed, the current agreement seems fair in theory, but is unworkable in practice,” Meier said. “The Village has brought this to the attention of Shelby and Ridgeway officials at joint meetings, yet both have indicated an unwillingness to modify the agreement. The Village will continue to address this matter with the towns.”

To see the report, click here.