Workers worry EMS billing jobs will be outsourced

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Workers worry as the city moves forward with a plan to outsource its emergency medical service billing.

The plan has raised concern in the African-American community, because more than 20 medical billing workers would have to move into different positions.

Kansas City's finance committee Wednesday approved a contract for a private firm to bill patients for ambulance service the city provides.

The city says it could save $1.2 million a year by hiring a software data processing firm to do the billing for the city, instead of fire department staff.

Advanced Data Processing also projects that it would collect $2 million more a year than city staff currently collects from insurance payers and patients.

But 30 positions would be eliminated from the city payroll if the change happens. Many of the billing clerks are African-American women.

"I'm in this for the long haul," said Mary White, who has worked as an EMS billing clerk for 17 years. "My career is what I'm looking at right now. This is what you are trying to take away from me, by outsourcing this to someone else. They can't guarantee me, nothing is guaranteed with these people."

The city says no medical billing worker would be terminated, and all would be offered comparable positions with their same salaries.

There is also concern that the private firm has experienced data theft, where personal information was stolen and used to generate thousands of false tax returns as part of an identity theft scheme.

Supporters say right now the city is solely responsible for any privacy law violations. They say sharing liability with a private firm is better than the city bearing all the costs itself.

Opponents wanted a delay of six months to show city managers that staff can be just as efficient and productive as a private firm. But supporters say every month of delay costs the city $100,000. After a four to one vote, the $835,000 privatization contract goes before the full city council Thursday for approval.

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