Riding on fumes: $9 million in unpaid ambulance rides
Published Tuesday, January 29, 2013 3:35PM PST
Last Updated Tuesday, January 29, 2013 7:09PM PST
Millions of dollars in ambulance bills in British Columbia remain unpaid, and many people in the province aren’t rushing to pay their health care bills.
While ambulance fees are not covered by the Canada Health Act, the B.C. government still covers almost 90 per cent of the cost of an ambulance trip – 100 per cent for people receiving income assistance and MSP premium assistance.
BC Ambulance charges $80 for each ambulance trip but a total of 12 per cent of what has charged since 2010 hasn’t been paid -- amounting to $9.3 million.
Kelsie Carwithen of the BC Ambulance Service said the agency is “doing our due diligence” to collect the unpaid bills.
If uncollected over 18 weeks, the bills are then forwarded to Revenue Services of B.C. for further collection.
BC Ambulance points out that our province's fees are the third lowest in the country.
But that news is little consolation for those struggling to pay, like Annette Macarthur, who called an ambulance last fall after falling ill in the middle of the night.
“It's on the list of things I have to pay for and it's not on the top of the list,” she said.
Macarthur said she believed the cost would be covered by MSP because it was an emergency. She disagrees that people should be billed for ambulance rides in emergency situations.
“If you have a fire and you phone the fire department, do they send you a bill after they put out the fire?” she asked. “If you have to phone the police, do they send you a bill?”
B.C.'s auditor general is currently auditing BC Ambulance’s air ambulance program to see if patients are getting their money’s worth.
The audit will investigate whether the program is providing timely service and quality care.
With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Mi-Jung Lee