Old debts to emergency services being billed

By Dawn De Busk
Staff Writer
CASCO — There is no such thing as a free ride in an ambulance.
“Being transported in an ambulance can range from $500 to $1,000, depending on the number of miles driven and the level of the emergency, according to Shawn McPherson with Medical Reimbursement Services, Inc., the collection agency used by the Town of Casco.
While doctors have taken an oath to care for people despite their ability to pay, both hospitals and rescue departments do bill for services. What insurance companies or State of Maine Medicare doesn’t cover becomes the responsibility of the patient.
For years, the Casco Rescue Department has kept on its books the outstanding debts from transporting people to the hospital. In fact, the department started billing people in 2004, and some debts date back to that time.
At the urging of the town’s auditor, the Casco Board of Selectmen decided to rein in those debts. The auditor had advised that the list be removed from accounts receivable.
The board decided not only to pursue getting payments, but also to create a policy for dealing with recouping emergency transportation costs.
Last year, the board was unified in dealing with the debt by removing it from accounts receivable on the fire and rescue department’s book. Also, the board backed using a collection agency to: 1) make people aware of these debts that date back 10 years; and 2) encourage people to pay the medical bill to maintain good credit.
“A collection agency was the second step,” she said.
“It is money that is owed to the Town of Casco,” said Selectman Holly Hancock, who is also Casco’s Rescue Chief and Assistant Fire Chief.
“Now, for any (bills) that are still unpaid, after making three attempts to collect, if it is still unpaid, it goes to the collection agency,” Hancock said.
“It is on this person’s credit report. If they try to borrow money, they find out they have bad credit,” she said.
A hardship application has been created, and is available at the Town Office. This gives people the opportunity to apply for reduction or forgiveness of their unpaid emergency services bills.

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