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County, VA work to fix $1.5 million in unpaid ambulance bills

Wichita Eagle - 10/20/2017

Oct. 20--Sedgwick County and Veterans Administration officials say they're making progress on figuring out how more than $1.5 million in county ambulance bills have gone unpaid by the VA since 2014.

County officials, congressional staffers and managers of the Robert J. Dole VA Medical Center met Thursday and agreed to get their accountants together to examine what went wrong with the more than 1,900 bills in question.

"The bottom line is we don't know where the problem lies yet, but we do have the right people working on it," said Commissioner David Dennis, who took the billing issue public at Wednesday's commission meeting and attended the Thursday meeting with the VA.

The unpaid bills are a combination of calls from veterans for transport to the hospital and calls by the hospital itself to transport patients between health facilities, county officials said.

Dennis, an Air Force veteran, said he engaged the issue because the county is due the money for the ambulance transports and the veteran patients will be on the hook if the VA doesn't pay.

In a statement sent to The Eagle, a VA spokesman said "We are committed to working with our community partners, and the meeting allowed us to come to a consensus and a positive course of action."

Dennis said one of the complicating factors is that the hospital itself pays some of its bills while other billings go through different channels at the VA's national level.

Another complication is that the VA has three possible levels of response to each billing: accepted, which means it gets paid; denied, which means it doesn't; and rejected, which means the claim won't be paid without further documentation, Dennis said.

He said the first meeting between accountants has been scheduled for Oct. 30 where they're "going to reconcile every one of these claims."

About two weeks later, the county and VA executives will meet again to review the results, he said.

Dion Lefler: 316-268-6527, @DionKansas

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