Delaware County will partner with a billing firm in an attempt to recoup some emergency medical services costs from residents' insurers starting next year.

Delaware County will partner with a billing firm in an attempt to recoup some emergency medical services costs from residents' insurers starting next year.

County commissioners last week voted 3-0 to enter into a three-year contract with PST Services for "soft billing" for EMS runs. In a soft-billing system, the billing agency attempts to recover costs related to EMS runs from a third party, such as an insurance company or Medicare, after an incident.

Delaware County EMS Chief Mike Schuiling said the move by the county is not an attempt to collect revenue from residents.

"Delaware County residents will ... receive no billing, nothing in the mail from Delaware County or this billing company that indicates they owe us money," he said. "This is strictly and solely insurance billing."

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Schuiling said soft billing already is used by "pretty much every (EMS) agency in Ohio."

"I think Delaware County (EMS) is one of the last agencies that I'm aware of that does not participate in any cost-recovery services," he said.

County Commissioner Gary Merrell said county officials need to communicate with residents to avoid confusion about the new billing process.

"Bottom line: We're leaving money on the table, and this is an opportunity to collect money that all of our neighbors around us are collecting," he said.

Merrell said he thinks county residents will be on board with the decision if it is explained to them accurately. He said it's "very, very important that residents do not get a bill because that will create a concern ... none of us want."

Schuiling said residents often are surprised the county has gone so long without trying to recover costs related to EMS runs.

"We receive an overwhelming number of phone calls (from people) requesting to pay their EMS bill because, again, it's just unheard of," he said.

According to the contract, PST will receive 4.9 percent of the revenue it collects for the county in compensation for its services. The contract sets $500 as the minimum monthly payment for PST Services.

Commissioner Jeff Benton noted the county will not pay PST Services for any costs it attempts but fails to recover. He said he saw that as a positive aspect of the agreement.

"We don't want to pay for stuff we don't collect," he said.

The county intends to begin the soft-billing process in January 2017.

Schuiling said county leaders plan to discuss with other local officials the possibility of expanding soft billing to townships and city departments that offer EMS services.

"Essentially, the way that works is they would go about contacting PST and setting up a contract through them with the rates and essentially the language we have already established," he said.

Delaware County has paid for countywide EMS services with revenue from a 0.5 percent sales tax since 1972.

tgallick@thisweeknews.com

@TWGallick