RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Rapid City officials will consider writing off more than $1.7 million worth of unpaid ambulance bills accumulated over the past dozen years.

The city's Legal and Finance Committee will look over a resolution Wednesday to write off nearly 2,700 unpaid ambulance bills that Rapid City Fire Department officials said they've been unable to recover, the Rapid City Journal reported. The city's lone ambulance service provider hasn't collected almost 98 percent of these unpaid fees either because the state's six-year statute of limitations expired or a person who owed the money died without an estate.

The rest are difficult to collect because of bankruptcy, incarceration or mandatory write-offs from Medicare and Medicaid denials.

Rapid City funds its ambulance service through user fees, unlike other South Dakota towns that put part of residents' property taxes toward the service, said Rod Seals, the city's fire chief. But it's unclear whether the model is sustainable for the department.

"All we try to do is to break even," Seals said. "(But) the cost of providing the service is rising faster than the reimbursements are. We are certainly not the only ones in this situation. It's affecting all ambulance providers across the nation."

The department's bottom line is also affected by cuts in ambulance service reimbursements by the Indian Health Service last year, as well as the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services tightening regulations, said Jason Culberson, the department's emergency medical-services chief.

Many individuals using the city's ambulance service are Medicaid or Medicare patients, he said.

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