County slammed over shorted payment

Wauseon fire chief crys foul

By David Coehrs -

Wauseon’s fire chief last week called Fulton County EMS Director Chad Smith and the county commissioners incompetent after delays within the county’s EMS billing process left a contracted payment to the city short $21,000.

Rick Sluder said the deficit occurred because the county didn’t confront its current EMS billing provider, Aim Online EMS Software and Services, about a backlog of unprocessed insurance payments in its system. He said that resulted in the county’s inability to fully remit an approximately $60,000 annual payment to Wauseon stipulated in the city-county EMS contract.

According to the contract, the city receives $100 for every billable emergency run costing the patient over $200. The total amount is covered in an annual payment from the county.

The shortage leaves the county in violation of the contract, Sluder said.

The billable run money is used to support the city’s EMS paid on-call volunteer system, and is in addition to revenue generated by a tax levy. The payment deficit equals the annual salary of one part-time employee.

“We knew there were problems with the billing company, and the county refused to properly look into it and hold the company accountable,” Sluder said.

He said the lesser amount the city received is directly attributable to Smith’s and the commissioners’ failure to confront Aim about the insurance checks piling up in the company’s queue. Wauseon’s annual check was presented at the EMS Executive Board meeting held March 15.

Sluder said the shortfall occurred even after Smith was repeatedly apprised of the situation at Aim, adding, “We were making the county EMS director aware of it. All we ever got is, ‘We’re looking into it.’”

The full amount of the city’s share is typically collected by the county by the end of January. Due to Aim’s delay in processing checks received from insurance providers, last year’s amount is still being collected.

Sluder said Rufenacht was the only commissioner to attend the executive board meeting. He said the commissioner took full responsibility for the deficit but didn’t explain why Aim was not confronted. The chief said the commissioners, Smith, and County Administrator Vond Hall have been aware of Aim’s poor performance since last October.

“In Wauseon, we monitor the billing,” he said. “It gets frustrating, because we can log into the Aim account and see which bills have been processed, and they weren’t being processed.”

Until last September, a county employee completed billing for EMS runs. After the employee quit the county hired Aim to perform the task.

City Legal Director Tom McWatter’s III said he isn’t altogether familiar with the section of the city-county EMS contract regarding the annual payment. He said he would have to review it to determine whether the county is in violation.

“I’ve got no position on it without doing that,” McWatters said.

Sluder said he’s upset over what he considers the county’s cavalier attitude over the issue. He said if processing of billing runs is delayed more than 30 days after they’re submitted insurance providers can attach daily penalties.

His complaints include the fact that county administrators failed to pursue a request by himself and former Archbold Fire Chief Andy Brodbeck for a review of the county’s compliance system, an audit completed to maintain accountability. Sluder said Rufenacht told him the commissioners chose to not conduct the review but failed to explain why.

He said Smith, who also attended the executive board meeting, remained silent on the issues.

“I want to know why (the county thinks) this is no big deal,” Sluder said. “In the end, the taxpayers are without the money because the commissioners didn’t do their job, the county administrators didn’t do their job, and the county EMS director didn’t do his job. They don’t understand the importance of doing things right.

“What the county doesn’t get as a group is that there is going to be a huge shift in health care. We don’t have anybody in place in the EMS system that understands the system, and so we’re going to be left behind unless people want to hold elected officials responsible.”

A statement released Monday by Toni Schindler, director of marketing and communications for the county commissioners, said, in part, “As a county EMS system, the responsibility of billing rests with the County and we need to do a better job of tracking the efforts of our vendors. With the resignation of our in house billing director we hired AIM to handle the billings. The issue of a compliance review became a non-issue.”

The statement said the EMS Executive Committee was notified at its meeting that Aim billing was running about 90 days in arrears. It said Aim was contacted about the problem on March 15, verified the company was backlogged on county billing runs, and said it would expedite the process.

“It was shared with the Executive committee that it is a matter of timing,” the statement continued. “It was also shared with the Executive committee that a second check would be cut to all communities in June of this year. The County expects that all communities will receive comparable dollars that it received in the past based upon its run volumes.”

Sluder’s accusations come after the commissioners approved a request by the county’s fire chiefs to replace Aim’s EMS system with a new provider. He said previously Aim’s service is antiquated and outdated, “and we’ve been unhappy with it since the day we got it.”

Sluder said he doesn’t know if or when Wauseon can expect to receive the rest of its money, and has little faith in the county administrators’ ability to make it happen.

“Elected officials don’t want to hold anybody accountable for not doing their job,” he said.

Wauseon fire chief crys foul

By David Coehrs

Reach David Coehrs at 419-335-2010

Reach David Coehrs at 419-335-2010