JACKSBORO, TN (WLAF) – Campbell County County Commissioners held a special called Zoom meeting on Tuesday evening to discuss the possibility of raising patient rates charged by the Campbell County Emergency Medical Service/EMS (Ambulance Service). The issue had been on the agenda at last month’s commission meeting, but commissioners had postponed voting to discuss it more in depth. Tuesday evening’s meeting was for information only, and the issue will not be voted on until it’s placed on the agenda for the Jan. 19 commission meeting. 

According to EMS Director Bruce Perkins, the county hasn’t raised patient rates since 2008 and is “way below” the region’s average when it comes to patient charges. Perkins said raising the rates was also at the recommendation of the ambulance service’s new billing company. 

“Our billing company said we need to make changes to our charges, and that we are much lower than surrounding counties,” Perkins said.

He told commissioners that the cost of health services, medical supplies and fuel had increased over the last 12 years, and the rates needed increased to help cover those costs.

Perkins researched what surrounding counties charge and averaged those rates to come up with a new rate proposal for the county. 

Perkins also told commissioners raising the patient rates would help the ambulance service bring in additional revenue and help the ambulance service get out of the “red.”

Mayor E.L. Morton said he was in agreement with it and that it was a “chance to have a cash flow model to break even or improve” the situation at the ambulance service. 

According to Perkins, this increase would fall mainly on the private health insurance companies rather than individuals. Both medicaid and TennCare have set rates that they pay and the increase would not affect those patients. 

Commissioner Rusty Orick spoke in support of it, saying commissioners had two choices, “raise taxes or raise patient rates.” Orick has sat on the EMS Committee for 14 years and said while he had “mixed emotions about raising the patient rates, he saw no other choice.”

“If we didn’t have an ambulance service, people would be ready to hang us. The county has to fund the ambulance service, and I don’t want to raise taxes on the people to do it,” Orick said. He also said at least doing it this way, the increases would affect the insurance companies, and it would place the county at an “average rate” regarding patient charges.

Perkins said he didn’t want taxes raised either. “I would rather the revenue side to come up and the tax base contributions to come down.”

Commissioners placed the issue to be briefly discussed once more at the next workshop, which will be held via Zoom on Jan. 11 at 6 pm. Commissioners will set the agenda at the workshop for the Jan. 19 commissioner’s meeting, at which point they will vote on the patient rate increase.  (WLAF NEWS PUBLISHED – 01/06/2021-6AM)