The Alachua County and Bradford County Boards of Commissioners applauded their shared medical billing services in a joint public meeting Monday evening, hoping to foster future collaboration.
In April 2015, Bradford County Emergency Medical Services asked the Alachua County Fire Rescue Department to operate its billing and collection services, offering $150,000 a year for Alachua County’s in-house financial resources.
The interlocal agreement allowed Bradford County — which had previously hired private agencies to bill citizens — to entrust Alachua County with its medical billing, invoice processing and fee collection services. The agreement is set to automatically renew in April, and Northcutt said the department is willing to discuss a similar agreement with other counties, if they are interested.
“We’ve been able to meet, if not exceed, the expectations of the Bradford County staff,” Alachua County Fire Rescue Chief William Northcutt said. “We look forward to continuing that relationship.”
Northcutt said the agreement not only benefited Bradford County staff, who were frustrated by their previous collection agency’s high rates, but also allowed Alachua County Fire Rescue to hire three more employees.
Now, nearly two years after the agreement passed, the counties held the first joint public meeting, where commissioners said they hope to use the success of their shared medical billing services as a catalyst for future partnership.
Bradford County Commissioner Danny Riddick said the joint meeting, and the success of the agreement, represented an historic turn in regional government cooperation.
“This is a great opportunity for us to work together and better all of our communities,” Riddick said.
Bradford Commissioner Chris Dougherty, said residents in Bradford County already rely on many of the resources in Alachua County, including employment and shopping.
“We have local businesses, and we try to support those local businesses in any way we can,” Dougherty said. “But many of us get our paychecks in Alachua County, and we spend quite a lot of money in Alachua County.”
Dougherty said this relationship highlights the mutual interests of both counties’ constituents. By continuing to collaborate, both counties and their respective residents will prosper, he said.
Because Bradford County possesses a smaller population and budget than Alachua County, Dougherty said, using bordering resources is vital to Bradford County’s economic and environmental success.
“We want to be [Alachua County’s] little brother,” Dougherty said. “We want to work together and, from an economic standpoint, we want a good, cohesive unit.”
Alachua County Commissioner Ken Cornell said the board will continue to meet with other counties’ commissioners. The Alachua County Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution in January allowing them to hold joint meetings with surrounding county commissions to foster compromise and regional cooperation.
“We’re coming together to learn how to work together because it’s what the people expect,” Cornell said.