DSG, a Chicago-based collection agency, will pursue unpaid bills for ambulance rides in Bay County, Fla. under a contract approved by county commissioners on Tuesday.

The firm will collect payments on bills that are 270 days or more past due and will earn 18% of the money it collects. The agreement allows DSG to accept payments on those accounts with a finance charge of 1% per month added to all accounts referred to them. The decision to hire an outside collection agency was prompted by Bay County taking over the ambulance service last year that was previously run by Bay Medical Center in Panama City, Fla.

The hospital often wrote off or reduced the cost of the ambulance rides when it ran the ambulance service because it earned much more revenue from those patients when they got to the hospital, according to Mark Bowen, director of Bay County Emergency Services.

The county had hired a billing company to send invoices and make calls to people who have not paid for the ambulance rides. Bowen added that the county had not performed any bad debt collections.

DSG officials were not immediately available for comment on the contract and additional terms were not disclosed.

Out of some 9,000 calls made, Bowen said the number of complaints had totaled less than 10. Some of the complaints related to questions about why the county had not signed an agreement with insurance companies to have the ambulance rides covered as an in-network reimbursement, according to The News-Herald in Panama City. The county hasn’t done that yet, Bowen said, because it would end up collecting less for the ambulance rides.

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