SD city officials consider writing off $1.7M in unpaid ambulance bills

Of the 2,676 unpaid bills, around 98 percent of them are either past the six-year statute of limitations or are uncollectible because the person has died


By EMS1 Staff

RAPID CITY, S.D. — City officials are considering writing off $1.7 million in unpaid ambulance bills.

Rapid City Journal reported that Rapid City’s Legal and Finance Committee is considering a resolution to write off 2,676 unpaid ambulance bills that date back as far as 2006.

Rapid City’s Legal and Finance Committee is considering a resolution to write off 2,676 unpaid ambulance bills that date back as far as 2006. (Photo/RCFD)
Rapid City’s Legal and Finance Committee is considering a resolution to write off 2,676 unpaid ambulance bills that date back as far as 2006. (Photo/RCFD)

Around 98 percent of the bills are either past the six-year statute of limitations or are uncollectible because the person has died without an estate.

Rapid City Fire Department officials said they have “attempted everything” to collect the funds.

“It’s certainly not for a lack of trying,” Chief Rod Seals said.

EMS Chief Jason Culberson said the department sends out around 10,000 bills a year.

“We’ve attempted everything, including sending it to one of the credit-collection companies,” he said. “We try everything.”

The city budget labels the ambulance service as an “enterprise fund” and receives funding from fees paid for the service.

Seals said the city does not use property taxes to fund the ambulance service like surrounding areas do, because the high call volume has historically provided enough funds to avoid doing so. However, he said it’s unclear how sustainable the model will be in the future.

“All we try to do is to break even,” Seals said. “[But] the cost of providing the service is rising faster than the reimbursements are. We are certainly not the only ones in this situation. It’s affecting all ambulance providers across the nation.”

Mayor Steve Allender said other cities are experiencing the same issue.

“Everyone we talk to is having the same problem with ambulances and people are starting to worry about the sustainability of public ambulances,” he said.

Culberson added that Medicare and Medicaid regulation increases, as well as reimbursement cuts from the Indian Health Service, have hurt the department’s bottom line.

“We’ve been seeing an alarming trend and we’re not the only ones seeing it,” he said.

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