Not paying ambulance bill can have a serious impact on the patient's credit

PULLMAN, WA - When a call comes into the Pullman Fire Department, it's usually a citizen in need of their ambulance services.

But the department sometimes has trouble getting patients to pay for their ambulance transport. Palouse Reporter Rachel Dubrovin explains why not paying the bill for the ambulance ride can have a serious impact on the patient's credit.

Pullman firefighters don't have a blaze to battle every day, but emergency responders stay busy through their ambulance services.

"Eighty percent of our call volume is EMS related calls," said Pullman Fire Chief Mike Heston. "We run about 20 percent of our call volume to the WSU campus. And then we run another 35-40 percent more calls to the northeast College Hill, where the students reside."

A ride in an ambulance is going to cost you, and what some people don't realize is that the ambulance bill is separate from the hospital bill.

"We generate our own invoices," said Pullman Fire Department Administrative Specialist Brenda Davison. "We generate our own insurance claims, and we need the patients and the families to be aware that they need to also contact us, and they have a responsibility to assist us with the claims process."

The Fire Department has a billing service that helps patients work with their insurance companies to reduce their ambulance bill as much as possible.

"It's a service that we do not charge for," said Davison. "We're happy to provide it, but there is a time factor where we need that information."

Patients will receive paperwork in the mail, and an ambulance bill.

"We usually send out two invoices minimum, and that's followed by a pre-collection notice, to advise them that they've got 30 days to resolve this or contact us," said Davison.

Davison said that once the 30 days is up, the bill is forwarded to a collections agency, which can have a negative impact on the patient's credit score. Davison also said ambulance service is mostly funded by patient fees, so paying the bill helps keeps the operation up and running.

Pullman City Supervisor Mark Workman said that if the city used a private company for ambulance service, it would be much more expensive than what they currently pay.