Unpaid ambulance bills costing the county millions

Unpaid ambulance bills are costing the county millions. 

Calling an ambulance will cost you hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. But CBS12 Investigates learned some people are not paying the bill, costing the county millions in lost revenue.

Palm Beach County Commissioners just approved writing of $11.8 million in what it calls “uncollectable emergency transport patient accounts.” In other words, ambulance fees generated when Palm Beach County Fire Rescue takes a patient to the hospital.

“Some people are lying on the street injured that they transport who have no identification, so it’s impossible to know who they could go after,” Commissioner Steven Abrams said.

Abrams says the numbers could be misleading, since the county he claims sets its billing rate high to capture as much 3rd party insurance as possible.

“Every year we know that there’s going to be a certain portion, even a large portion that is not collectible,” he said.

Documents obtained by CBS12 from the county show some of those uncollected dollars are due to insurance denials, patients without medical coverage and even fire rescue’s inability to obtain accurate patient information. And that might explain why in FY 2013, when fire rescue generated $38 million in gross transport billings, the private company hired to collect the fees for the county only collected less than half. Abrams says it’s the cost of doing business.

“Nobody wants to leave money on the table, but I can assure you the county makes every effort to collect it,” he said.

Commissioner Hal Valeche told CBS12 that the county uses a private collection agency and even attorneys in an attempt to recoup some of the funds.

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