City losing millions in unpaid JFRD rescue bills

Author: Scott Johnson, General assignment reporter, sjohnson@wjxt.com
Jason Mealey, Producer, jmealey@wjxt.com
Published On: Feb 04 2014 09:16:26 PM EST   Updated On: Feb 04 2014 11:38:32 PM EST
Rescue Unit 22
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

The city of Jacksonville is writing off almost $9 million in old ambulance bills.

For 10 years, many patients transported by Jacksonville Fire-Rescue personnel haven't paid their bills, and the backlog has been growing.

As city leaders try to balance their every-tighter budgets each year, they were stunned to find out taxpayers are losing out on millions because of people who take the ambulance through JFRD but never pay the bill.

"Collections for fire rescue is all handled through a third-party billing company, we don't get involved in that as a fire department," said Fire Chief Marty Senterfitt.

The debt collector that handles the contract is Intermedics.

City Councilman John Crescimbeni was shocked to learn Tuesday that the city has to write off almost $8.9 million in uncollected debt that's been accruing over the past ten years.

"I think what's more concerning is that it stayed on the books so long, so the question that needs to be asked is did they know it was not paid. Because if someone's not going to pay you, they're not going to pay you. There's no reason to have it on the books for five, six, seven, eight years. That doesn't accomplish anything," said Crescimbeni.

The city's chief financial officer tells Channel 4 the reason this happened is because Intermedics recently updated its software and found all these unpaid bills that had been forgotten about for the past 10 years.

Crescimbeni, who's on the council finance committee, wasn't happy.

"I think it's more a question about the company we hired to collect that debt not doing a sufficient job," said Crescimbeni.

After the debt was discovered, the city canceled the contract with Intermedics, but the company was allowed to re-bid on a new contract, and won.  Channel 4 is told the new contract has stricter protocols, so lost debt doesn't go unreported for years.