City committee approves resolution to write off unpaid debt
Debts reveal problems with insurance reimbursements for some services
RAPID CITY, S.D. – The Rapid City Legal and Finance Committee approved a resolution to write off 2,676 unpaid ambulance bills, totaling more than $1.7 million. They passed the resolution during the Legal and Finance Committee meeting on Wednesday at the City and School Administration Center.
Most of the unpaid bills, totaling exactly $1,757,324.14, cannot legally be collected. Seventy-four percent of the debts have passed South Dakota’s six-year statute of limitations. Many of the other debts belong to debtors that passed away without an estate, have declared bankruptcy, or are incarcerated.
MORE: The complete list of delinquent bills
However, the existence of the debt is partly because insurance companies have reduced their reimbursements for ambulance services. And they do not reimburse the city directly, unlike they do for doctors and hospitals. This puts the person who received ambulance services in the position of being a middleman between the insurance companies and the city.
According to Rapid City Fire Department (RCFD) officials, the average ambulance bill is $892. The RCFD has been the city’s only ambulance service provider since 2003.
MORE: The breakdown of the bills proposed to be written off
Chad Lewis, alderman for Rapid City’s 3rd Ward, has been working with fire department officials and other legislators to correct the problem. But he has encountered resistance.
“It was obviously shot down by a lot of lobbyists from the insurance companies and they didn’t want us to do that,” Lewis said during the committee meeting. “It would be much easier if we could be paid directly like everything else you do. Insurance companies pay your doctor, they pay the hospital, but they don’t pay us for this service.”
The RCFD has been feeling the pinch in its ambulance services. But programs like the Mobile Medic are helping to make the city’s emergency medical services more efficient.
READ MORE: Saving lives, saving money with the Mobile Medic
“[The Mobile Medic] is less than the cost of sending an ambulance and two crewmembers,” said Jason Culberson, division chief for medical operations with the RCFD. “We’re sending the one gentleman in an ambulance. It has saved us cost and it has done very well for us in the long run, and so yeah, it’s been a good program.”
The resolution now goes to the complete Common Council for its consideration.
The RCFD budgets about $4.2 million per year for ambulance services and sends out about 10,000 bills for service every year. The unpaid bills amount to about 2.23 percent of all bills since 2006.