Heartburn or GERD can Kill

Heartburn is a common annoyance. The busy lifestyle, quick meals, fatty or spicy foods all contribute to the occasional need of a chewable pain reliever. The acceptance of heartburn as an inconvenient, but natural, part of the daily grind can blind you to the warning that a severe heartburn symptom can bring.

Heartburn as a Disorder

Heartburn can be a symptom as well as a disorder. Simple heartburn or GERD can be controlled and dealt with. However, heartburn can signal the presence of a much more serious problem. If it’s heartburn, you will have a burning sensation in the chest usually after eating. There may be a spread of the burning to the throat, sometimes accompanied by a bad taste, difficulty in swallowing, belching, coughing, hoarseness and/or wheezing.

It can become worse by lying down or bending over or by eating. Relief can come from an antacid. While the more severe heartburn symptoms may be mistaken for a heart attack, simple heartburn is usually not made worse by exercise. If there is any concern that the pain may signal a heart attack, get help quickly.

Friday, June 19, 2009

County Officials Put Off Ambulance Collections Decision

By Jonathan Summers

Commissioners on Monday delayed a decision to hire a collection agency because of unpaid ambulance bills incurred in unincorporated areas of Flagler County. Instead, county staff will do more research and the item will be brought back to commissioners for consideration sometime in July.

Commissioner Alan Peterson said during the meeting that he wasn't ready to sign at the dotted line in the piggyback contract alongside officials in Orange County because he first wanted to know how the collection agency does its business.

He wanted to know how repeatedly the agency calls residents about their delinquent accounts and what times of the day those calls were made. He also wished to know how many written notices would be sent to residents in arrears for their emergency medical care during an ambulance ride.

"My overriding concern on this whole issue is that unlike most bills people incur, this is an involuntary expense," Peterson said. "People don't normally choose to take an ambulance for medical care."

Commissioner Barbara Revels said she also wanted to guarantee that the county wasn't getting into business with a "heavy-handed" collection agency that could result in consumer retaliation, like some that's now being seen around the country.

Under the county's current billing routines, insurance companies are billed for a patient who receives medical care and transport. If the patient is not insured or the insurance does not cover the full balance due, a third-party billing company steps in and attempts to collect the debt through written notices with the help of information verification from Tax Collector Suzanne Johnston's office. The account is kept open and debt collection attempts continue for up to a year, at which time the debt is moved to a "bad debt" list and charged off by commissioners.

The debts are not placed on residents' credit reports and pugnacious telephone tactics are not used for collection.

Peterson also said if the board arrives at conclusion to move forward in hiring a collection agency, he'd like to see county officials add a new level of regular review to the accounts on its "bad debt" list before they're turned over for collection.

"There should be a review of each and every account to see if it makes sense to turn it over to the collection agency," Peterson said.

He requested county staff acquire the proposed collection agency's procedures and has asked them to present an outline of the policy they will use for reviewing accounts before they're turned over to the agency sometime before the end of July.

"We haven't had a collection agency up to this point, so I don't think it would hurt to delay the decision two weeks," said County Administrator Craig Coffey.

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