Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ambulance Fee on Hold for Now

We all know that the proposed ambulance fee has caused quite a stir around the County. On November 25, the Council voted unanimously to table the bill. Because the County’s economic forecast indicates we may need to reconsider the bill in the spring, I’d like to take the time to clarify some of the issues.

The County Executive has proposed a fee of $300 to $800 for emergency transport in order to raise approximately $13.8 million annually for fire and emergency services. It is important to note that no county resident, regardless of whether they are insured, would ever receive a bill for a fee, co-payment or deductible. Rather, the amount would be billed directly to insurance companies. Tax revenue received from County residents would be deemed as payment for any portion of the fee not covered by insurance. Non-county residents would be billed for co-payments or deductibles but could seek a waiver.

There are many concerns about the fee from all sides. The County Executive has stressed that his plan is designed to charge health insurers, not County residents. Citing neighboring jurisdictions that charge a fee (the District and Fairfax, Frederick and Prince George’s Counties), the County Executive says that Montgomery County is essentially leaving money on the table that other local governments collect from insurance companies, Medicare and Medicaid. At the same time, opponents of the fee say that any charge would discourage residents from calling 911 for help in the event of an emergency. Volunteers, who comprise about 50% of our fire and rescue service, are also concerned that charging a fee is inconsistent with their volunteer function.

Residents currently all pay a Fire District Tax on their property tax bill which is dedicated to supporting various aspects of fire and rescue operations. The ambulance fee money is intended to be dedicated to fire and rescue infrastructure and equipment.

As always, I appreciate hearing your comments and concerns. It’s important for me to know what you’re thinking.


Old Lady said...

You seem to have figured out ways to help county residents avoid paying this fee, but wouldn't the administrative costs of running it (i.e. insurance paperwork & bookkeeping) take away some of the income from the program? And wouldn't everyone's health insurance rates be raised as well? I'm against a fee for ambulance service if it is at all possible to avoid it.

Anonymous said...

Knowing people in the Department on Fire Rescue I can tell you that the money is needed and at the end of the fiscal year every EMS unit county wide is taking supplies from hospitals and other units to just keep thier units stocked. And the way I see it is your insurance rates will not go up because rates are done by a geografical areas. Therefore, if everyone around us is charging why should we not take the "money on the table". Also I think that the Vol. corperations don't like this bill because it will take away from thier fund rasing efforts. Also I dont think admin. fee's will cost $13.8 million.