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S.C. county may write off $5.1 million in uncollected EMS bills

The county has tried collecting to no avail; the debt is three years old and councilors say it's time to move on

Jay Rodriguez
The Sun News 

CONWAY, S.C. — Horry County Council will consider writing off more than $5.1 million in emergency services bills from 2011, and some councilmen want to know just who these people are who are walking away from their bills.

Of the nearly $16.2 million the county’s emergency management services charged in 2011, it has tried locally and at the state level to collect the outstanding debt to no avail. Now county officials want County Council to write off the debt and move on.

“The uncollectable balance is more than three years old,” said Pam Hill of the county’s finance department. “After three years of attempts, it was determined that our opportunity has diminished tremendously.”

As Horry County’s transport billings have grown from $8.4 million in 2007 to $16.2 million in 2011, so has its write-off amount from $2.2 million to $5.1 million, respectively.

In 2010, EMS billing rates were increased in an effort to increase collected revenue.

Councilman Harold Worley played a role in recovering some of the county’s annual loss in revenue.

“Going back when we increased the fee, this write off was one of the main reasons we increased the fee,” Worley said.

Hill said counties are able to write off up to 35 percent of its billings. Fiscal year 2011 is nearly 32 percent, she said.

“We anticipated the rate would grow because of an increase in the billing rates and the federal guidelines regarding Medicare and Medicaid reimbursements,” Hill said.

Anne Wright, finance director for the county, said her department is looking at outsourcing collection efforts, which Councilman Marion Foxworth was skeptical about.

“We did that one time before, and it didn’t really work so well,” Foxworth said. “Chasing it out of state doesn’t work. Even with insurance, it’s very difficult. This does penalize our residents, not individually, but their insurance companies. The ones that can pay the damages...”

Councilman Worley said he would like a report of where those who are not paying their EMS bills are from by the administration committee’s next meeting.

“I’m going to go ahead and ask for a motion to write it off,” he said, adding the full council will vote on it at its Sept. 2 meeting, “but in a follow up, I’d like to see who these people are.”


©2014 The Sun News (Myrtle Beach, S.C.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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