Audit: Richmond ambulance out $9.6M

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – You call them for help but soon, you may be getting a call from a collection agency.  We've uncovered a new audit that shows a nearly $10 million deficit in the Richmond Ambulance Authority. People are not paying for their ambulance rides.

We've learned that $9.6M comes from delinquent accounts. Those account holders can expect calls from collection agencies. But, the deficit won't affect how Richmond Ambulance responds when you call 911.

They rush to you when you're in an emergency but they're losing money doing it.  That's one of the few criticisms contained in the city auditor's report of the Richmond Ambulance Authority.  CEO Chip Decker told NBC12 they do everything they can to get paid and then send the accounts to collection agents.

"They'll get a letter," he explained.  "They'll get phone calls. We will make contact with them best we can."

Some of the problem is the population in a city.  Here, there are more low-income people and some without permanent addresses for bills.

Still, when patients call 911 medics have an obligation to respond.  Decker said they'll be there no matter what.

"If you haven't been able to pay your bill for the last twenty trips we carried you to the hospital that's fine," he told us.  "If you need an ambulance we will tote you the 21st time."

So if they have to pick you up, how are they ensuring payment after the audit? RAA has hired a new collection agency since the period of the report, but there are few other options.

"Obviously payment up front is not the way you want to run this kind of business when somebody has a critical need," said Decker.

In the bigger picture, the authority collects more than fifty-percent of its accounts.  While that may seem low for a business, its rate is higher than some similar agencies.

Overall, Decker said he is pleased with this report.  When compared to many other city departments, the audit is mostly positive.

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