CANTON — Nearly $1 million in bad debt was written off by St. Lawrence County lawmakers Thursday night in a resolution that addressed Community Services debts that dated back 14 years.
According to the resolution to approve the bad debt write off for Community Services, a reserve account for bad debt was established in 2002 and in 2018, the reserve account for bad debt was increased to $972,033.
But the bad debt that legislators wrote off Thursday night was for $966,614, estimated by 2016 calculations that built up from the 2002 account.
The 2016 and prior debt accounts were $382,192 for Mental Health, $154,290 for Canton Chemical Dependency, $126,556 for Ogdensburg Chemical Dependency, $57,908 for Gouverneur Chemical Dependency, $132,702 for Massena Chemical Dependency and $112,966 for Expanded Children’s Services.
The requested bad debt write off breaks down to $484,780, Medicaid; $23,193, Managed Medicaid; $4,260, managed care; $38,578, private insurance and $415,803, client responsibility. Collections efforts are still continuing, according to the resolution.
The vote to write off the bad debt didn’t come without opposition. Legislators voted 11 to 4 in favor of the write off, with Chairman Joseph R. Lightfoot, R-Ogdensburg, Kevin D. Acres, R-Madrid, David A. Haggard, D-Potsdam, and Rita A. Curran, R-Massena, voting against the write off.
“I realize that it is something financially we need to keep our books solid, but I think the board needs to start looking at the clinics and see why we are losing this money, just about half of this money was client responsibility, why we didn’t go after this money and ascertain whether they were moneys that could have been obtained from these individuals,” Mr. Acres said. “I think we are looking at $966,000, that’s a little bit over a two percent tax increase, and granted it’s from 2002 to 2016, but we know that we have bad debt that we will be writing off next year, and I think it is time for this board to really look closely and limit this and see if these clinics are a liability, especially when the hospitals are expanding into these services and in numerous entities are getting into this business.”
Mr. Haggard agreed.
“I, in good conscience, can also not support this resolution,” he said. “I have not received an adequate explanation as to why there was a short fall on the billing side, and because of that, since we are talking about close to a million dollars, I also will not be supporting this resolution.”