GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A program put in place by Life EMS Ambulance allows people to work off their ambulance bills if they can’t afford them by volunteering at a local nonprofit.
“We had to find a way to obviously help our patients who don’t have the financial means to pay for their transport,” said Katie Arens, the supervisor of customer accounts at Life EMS Ambulance.
Owner Mark Meijer came up with the idea about 10 years ago.
“We take their bill and we divide it by 20 because we feel their time is valued at 20 dollars per hour. And that is how many hours of community service they need to provide at a local non-profit organization,” said Arnes.
Arnes says less than five percent of their customers are eligible for the program. Those who take advantage of the program must show financial need; usually by showing they received a charitable write-off from the hospital where they received care.
Since the program started, Life EMS has written off $257,000 of bills which turned into 12,850 hours of community service for local non-profit.
“This program is obviously unique and I think that they appreciate it. The thing we find is they continue to stay on after they have completed their hours because they find that giving back is fulfilling,” said Arnes.
Arnes says to her knowledge, they are the only company in the nation to offer a program like this.
“We don’t get any financial impact from this, but we indirectly, we’re helping the patient and we’re helping the community we serve,” said Arnes.
One nonprofit that has benefited from Life’s program is God’s Kitchen, located at 303 Division Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids.
“This program has been a tremendous help because we operate basically with volunteers, we can’t do it without volunteers,” said Program Manager of God’s Kitchen Rob Miller.
Every day God’s Kitchen serves lunch to more than 300 needy people in Grand Rapids. They also send out hundreds of delivery meals to homes each week.
“We’re very thankful. As a matter of fact, when we thank people or organizations for what they do for us I feel like I’m not doing enough,” Miller said.
Arnes said those participating in the program have six months to complete their community service at a local non-profit of their choosing.
She said that usually equates to about 30 hours given the average ambulance bill ranges from $650 to $750.
If the individuals can’t complete the work on their own due to the nature of the illness or injury, Life EMS allows a family member or friend to do it. Life EMS verifies the work by requesting a note from the non-profit upon completion of the volunteering hours on a letterhead.
“We’re always thrilled with the opportunity to collaborate with various companies and organizations because that’s the only way we can fulfill our mission of feeding the hungry,” Miller said.
Life EMS has been operating out of Grand Rapids for the past 35 years, while God’s Kitchen has been serving the needy of Grand Rapids for 45 years.