Existing ambulance bills written off by committee approval, close to $790,000

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - The Rapid City Legal and Finance Committee approved to write off existing bills for the ambulance enterprise fund.

Chief Rod Seals said the department typically conducts these write-offs once or twice per year. Seals said the write-off on Wednesday will be the only one for this year.

The total amount written off was close to $780,000.

Rapid City Fire Chief Rod Seals said the bills have no correlation with the fire department's ability to manage ambulance operations.

Seals said the existing bills are due to patients having zero ability to pay them.

"And so it just goes with good governmental business practices that when you have uncollectible debt and you've done everything you can to try and collect that debt, including collection agencies, and once the statute of limitations is up or the person is deceased, then there's no reason to carry that on your accounts receivable," said Seals.

Seals said the fire department sends out more than 14,000 ambulance bills annually.

The number of bills written off totaled 1,190 -- spanning from 2005 to 2019.

Reasons patients were unable to pay include:
-827 due to a six-year statute of limitations expiring and the debt is uncollectable according to the debt collection agency.
-316 deceased with no estate
-21 mandatory write-offs per Medicaid
-18 bankruptcies
-5 patients incarcerated
-3 mandatory write-offs per private insurance