EMSA to explain billing procedures during City Council meeting

TULSA - EMSA officials and the city of Tulsa are beginning a new public education campaign to teach the city's residents about how fees are charged for ambulance service.

Spokesperson Kelli Bruer said EMSA is initiating a public education campaign in an effort to "clear up misinformation" about the city's utility fee and EMSA's TotalCare program.

EMSA, already in the middle of a lawsuit, is now being questioned by the city.

City councilors sat down with officials from EMSA Thursday looking for answers. They found most of the problems come down to miscommunication.

"We sold it to people that it was better than ice cream and cake, but we didn't tell them the whole story," said councilor Jack Henderson.

In a lawsuit, two Tulsans claimed they were wrongly charged for ambulance services. While EMSA officials cannot comment on the lawsuit, they are trying to clear up what they call "misconceptions."

One of them centers on the TotalCare program. City residents are automatically enrolled in it, with the choice to opt out. The TotalCare Program costs $3.64 a month on a Tulsa utility bill. The program promises no out-of-pocket expenses if ambulance services are used.

"The idea is that it takes care of your co-payments or its deductible, and if you have no insurance, it covers the entire bill. So it was a method for us to give back to the community, for this money that was being collected," said Stephen Williamson, EMSA's president & CEO.

Williamson says customers are sent several letters after they're transported,  informing them of their billing policy.

2News asked  Williamson whether EMSA's billing can be trusted.

"Absolutely. Our billing practices are industry reviewed, we are looked at for our excellence in this industry," Stephenson said.

Mayor Dewey Bartlett has outlined some recommendations for EMSA, including contacting customers up front about enrolling in the TotalCare program.

"If someone's paying their $3.64 a month, they shouldn't be getting harrassed for out of pocket expenses or anything else. They should be treated like a customer, which is what they are," G.T. Bynum said.

Councilors say the issue comes down to communication.

"Right now they are basically assuming that people agree to changes in their customer agreement, if they send something out in the little junk mail thing that goes in the water bill and people don't object to it," Bynum said.

Councilor G.T. Bynum is pushing for the city council to approve a consensus next week in support of the mayor's recommendations. If you have any questions for EMSA, you'll find the agency's contact information below.

EMSA contact information:
City of Tulsa Utilities 918-596-9511

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