EMS discovers misplaced billings Technology: Computer problems leave more than $1.5 million unaccounted for. - Brownsville Herald: Local News

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EMS discovers misplaced billings Technology: Computer problems leave more than $1.5 million unaccounted for.

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Posted: Wednesday, January 24, 2001 12:00 am

By DANIEL BORUNDA

The Brownsville Herald

More than 6,000 bills worth more than $1.5 million from the Brownsville

Emergency Medical Services Department had been unaccounted since 1999, a city

memo stated.

The City Commission on Tuesday unanimously hired the external auditing firm of

Long, Chilton L.L.P. for a financial audit of the billing of the EMS

Department and the collecting agency for the department.

This is such a large amount and such a large amount of invoices, acting EMS

Director Jeff Johnston said. Previous director Arturo Rodriguez resigned in

November to take a new job.

In a Jan. 18 memo to City Manager Lanny Lambert, Johnston wrote that 6,304

accounts unknowingly laid dormant inside computerized billing software

purchased in March 1999. EMS staff recently discovered the accounts, totaling

$1,558,663.

The good news is the bills are still around and they havent been lost,

Lambert said.

The accounts were mis-located, Lambert said. In 1999, the department

installed computerized billing software that likely accidentally placed those

accounts where they couldnt be reached. They were discovered when a software

specialist recently was teaching EMS staff about the software.

These particular accounts have been billed at least four times. These are

delinquent accounts, Johnston said.

Apparently, when there was no response by the person being billed, the

computer placed the accounts in an unknown file. The majority of the

discovered invoices are from cash and private insurance accounts, numbering

3,987, followed by 1,793 Medicaid accounts and 524 Medicare accounts.

The audit will search for any more missing invoices, find out if the problem

is fixed, and discover what caused it and who or what was responsible, Lambert

said.

Commissioner Bud Richards reminded the commission that a Finance Department

audit about a year ago had found that the software in place was not working as

it should.

The older the money gets, the harder it is to collect, Richards said.

In other action, the commission approved the $2.5 million purchase of the

Yturria property in North Brownsville that is the site of the Battle of the

Resaca de la Palma fought in 1846 as the second battle of the Mexican-American

War. In the future, the city hopes to develop the grassy field into a historic

park.

A complaint about vehicles driving onto Washington Park and thanks for

implementing a public forum were the first two views expressed during the

first Public Comment period at commission meetings.

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