MT. PLEASANT — A formal committee to oversee the future of the ambulance service moving forward has been established in Henry County.
At a meeting hosted by the Henry County Board of Supervisors on Monday, Dec. 2, Michelle Rosell, Chief Operating Officer for the Henry County Health Center (HCHC) volunteered as chair person, Dan Berner, scheduler for HCHC vice-chair and Jacob Dodds, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Director for HCHC, secretary. The purpose of the committee is to explore the possible options for the future of the ambulance service in Henry County. County officials have not made any announcements regarding interest in taking over the service and representatives from HCHC have previously stated the institution will continue to provide the service until another solution is found.
During the meeting, Robb Gardner, Chief Executive Officer for HCHC, said the reason representatives have approached the supervisors about taking over the service is because the hospital needs help with economic stability to move forward. He said because HCHC is a critical access hospital, it is cost based reimbursed for services deemed by Medicare as cost-based reimbursed. He said the service itself breaks even, but because it is owned and operated by a critical access hospital a loss of $670,146 in reimbursements were reported last year.
He said the best way to help sustain HCHC would be to drop the EMS department because of the negative impact. Currently, the EMS department is located inside HCHC. However, he said the board has discussed leasing the space to the entity that decides to take over the service.
Gardner said before 2016, HCHC would receive a cost-based settlement but that is no longer the case after legislation was passed in 2018. Dodds said deficit has been created because people are used to exchanging things dollar for dollar but in health care, that is not the case.
He used the example of purchasing a furnace, saying the consumer would receive a bill and need to pay it. However, in health care, it is different because depending who gets billed, Medicare, Medicaid, a private insurance company, etc., the reimbursement rate is different. He said the current rate reimbursement rate is 45 percent, meaning if they charge $100 they will only be paid $45. He said the industry average is closer to 50 or 60 percent and there is potential for that rate to increase if the service is not billed to the hospital.