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Tulsa City Council Examines EMSA's Billing Practices

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EMSA answered questions about its billing practices, responding to allegations the public utility is suing people who have already paid. EMSA answered questions about its billing practices, responding to allegations the public utility is suing people who have already paid.
Most people in and around Tulsa pay a monthly utility fee for EMSA. But sometimes EMSA cannot determine whether a patient is part of the program. Most people in and around Tulsa pay a monthly utility fee for EMSA. But sometimes EMSA cannot determine whether a patient is part of the program.
The City Council called on EMSA to answer questions about why people who pay for ambulance service through utility bills are sometimes billed anyway. The City Council called on EMSA to answer questions about why people who pay for ambulance service through utility bills are sometimes billed anyway.
TULSA, Oklahoma -

EMSA answered questions about its billing practices, responding to allegations the public utility is suing people who have already paid.

Most people in and around Tulsa pay a monthly utility fee for EMSA. But sometimes EMSA cannot determine whether a patient is part of the program - so there have been cases of bills going to people who shouldn't have to pay.

EMSA president Steve Williamson told the City Council he doesn't believe there's a widespread problem with the "Total Care" program.

"We haven't changed the program. Maybe we didn't explain all the issues. It wasn't a problem in the past, it obviously is now and we're not going to run from that," Williamson said.

The City Council called on EMSA to answer questions about why people who pay for ambulance service through utility bills are sometimes billed anyway.

The Tulsa World reported some EMSA patients say they've been threatened and eventually sued for payment - when they were actually covered by the fee on utility bills.

Some of those people are now suing EMSA in return.

"I think there are clearly things that needs to change with their practices," said Tulsa City Councilor G.T. Bynum at Thursday's meeting

Bynum is asking for immediate changes, based on the allegations about EMSA's collection practices.

"Laying off the threats to people to kick them out of the program," he said.

Williamson said while he can't comment on cases connected to the lawsuit, he's confident the billing side of the system is fine.

"We go after third party coverage, insurance and anything left on the account after insurance pays is written off, there's no charge to the patient. And if the patient doesn't have insurance, the entire account is written off," Williamson said.

But Mayor Bartlett too is asking for changes in how EMSA explains who is covered and who is not.

"The issue I have is with the billing practices and how they communicate with the public," Bartlett said.

EMSA says only a handful of its unpaid bills end up in lawsuits - but the council and the mayor believe that's enough to review how EMSA bills and collects for ambulance service.

EMSA transported 130,000 patients last year and says only 230 cases statewide had to go to small claims court.

The total cost of an ambulance ride is $1100, so that's the maximum due from either insurance - or outright payment from the patient.

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