As Montgomery County prepares to begin billing insurance companies and out-of-county residents next month for ambulance rides, County Executive Isiah Leggett said it will work to ensure that billing information remains secure.
Montgomery hopes to avoid what happened in Frederick County, where ambulance billing information was taken by an employee of the contractor, Advanced Data Supply Inc., and given to a theft ring that used it to file fraudulent tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service, according to a Frederick County fire and rescue news release.
While no medical information was taken, personal information was believed to have been accessed including names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth, the release said. As a result of the theft, the company was reinforcing to employees the importance of the security and confidentiality of sensitive personal data.
Leggett (D) said Thursday that he was not aware of what happened in Frederick County, but that he will have administrators consult with the county contractor, MED3000, to ensure that it has a solid approach to security.
Though if someone were able to hack into the county’s ambulance billing information it could mean Montgomery needs to take a serious look at all of its information security, he said.
Montgomery’s campaign to educate residents about the new ambulance reimbursement program is well under way, Leggett said.
The Montgomery County Council approved the program this summer at the executive’s behest.
A similar measure narrowly passed the council in 2010, only to be later repealed by voters in the November election that year.
Volunteer firefighters who fought against the fee in 2010 chose to stop collecting signatures this August to bring the matter back to referendum again this year on Nov. 6 after it reached an agreement with the county regarding payment of the fee.
Unlike its 2010 predecessor, the new law more clearly states that county residents will not pay any out-of-pocket expenses related to their transport, including deductibles, co-pays or co-insurance. It also creates a patient advocate in the Office of Consumer Protection to walk people through the process and requires the county to hold a public outreach and education program.
Only insurance companies and patients who live outside the county would pay under the law.
With billing set to begin in January, Leggett said the county is still estimating the program to bring in about $18 million in its first full fiscal year.
Provisions of the law authorizing the billing earmark the money to county and volunteer firefighters including the purchase of apparatus and the training of new fire and rescue personnel.