EAST PALESTINE - The village fire and EMS department has not received its Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements for nearly four months and is behind by "tens of thousands of dollars," Fire Chief Brett Todd said.
The federal reimbursements are a large part of the department's fund and the payments stopped as a result of an error on the renewal application due the first of the year, he said.
"There were minor errors on the application which had to be corrected but due to an error on Medicaid and Medicare's part we never received notice of the (needed) corrections," he said.
The department is still receiving money from private insurance companies but Todd said if the federal reimbursements don't come in within the next month funding "could become an issue."
He also said that since the village is currently without a Medicare provider agreement other insurance companies are also delaying payments.
As of March the department has received $14,066-a difference of $35,561 from what was received through the payments by March of 2011. The department received, on average, $6,549 a month all last year in payments, Todd said.
He and councilman and Finance Committee member Jim Tyger said they believe other Ohio communities are experiencing similar problems.
"I've heard quite a number of areas have had problems getting applications approved," Todd said.
The village had submitted its renewal application via e-mail.
Following some back and forth with representatives of the federal programs, Todd said the village sought out the help of U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Marietta), who had a Medicare/Medicaid representative contact the village immediately.
Johnson said he acted on behalf of the village because delivering efficient, effective constituent services and "cutting through excessive federal government red tape" are his top priorities.
"In this case, the (village) of East Palestine needed help with a federal agency in order to make sure health care for seniors remained uninterrupted. It is my duty to make sure that Washington bureaucrats put the needs of the people of eastern and southeastern Ohio above their own self interests. Hardworking American taxpayers deserve better, and I intend to continue fighting to ensure they get it," he said.
Todd said that through Johnson's help the village is now "in the process of getting it straightened out."