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Shout Out: Should Montgomery County Charge Ambulance Fees?

Montgomery County is one of the few jurisdictions in the nation that does not charge ambulance fees, but that could be about to change.

Montgomery County is the only jurisdiction in the Washington, D.C. region that does not charge ambulance fees, thanks to a 2010 referendum in which county voters rejected the fees after the fees had been approved by the county council.

That referendum could be reversed this year by the county council, The Gazette reported.

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) favors the fees as a way to help bring in revenue. As a courtesy to Leggett, Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner (D - Dist. 1) introduced the executive's legislation to establish a fee earlier this month.

"The executive has asked the council to reconsider the fee in light of state actions that have intruded on council taxing authority and the looming possibility of a shift in half of teacher pension costs," The Gazette reported.

The ambulance fee would be paid mostly by insurance companies, "whose rates already reflect regional ambulance fee reimbursements," The Washington Post—which has endorsed the fees—stated earlier this month.

"The county would pick up any co-pays or deductibles, including charges for uninsured residents," The Post added. Only out-of-county, uninsured residents who call for an ambulance in Montgomery County would face deductibles or co-pays.

Not charging the fees has "deprive[ed] the county of about $14 million annually that would otherwise defray the expense of emergency services," The Post added.

However, volunteer firefighters including the continue to oppose the fees.

The ambulance fee bill is scheduled for a public hearing at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 8.

What do you think? Should the county charge an ambulance fee? Tell us in the comments.

Donna R. Savage April 26, 2012 at 05:47 PM
This fee should be collected by the County, for many reasons I won't restate here. Unfortunately, the voters voted against this fee in 2010, so it probably does not make sense for the Council or the CE to revisit this issue so soon after that. However, and unfortunately, the publicity prior to that vote by some of the vocal opponents resulted in a significantly misinformed voting public. The end result should be that the County should collect (not "charge") an ambulance fee, but I do not know how we're going to get there....
Peter Kunz April 26, 2012 at 08:36 PM
Why-O-why, should the autonomous “Country” of Montgomery County, not now extract more money and now BLOOD from us? Now we should not bother to pay our County taxes which DO incorporate Fire/Rescue/Ambulance services? I recall hearing the Obama subject, pontificating something about how our Nation (or maybe it was a segment of such) was built upon volunteerism and the financial saving, much less the pride of community & service? Agreed: Some health insurances policies cover minimal “ambulance services” fees that indigent people have no obligation to pay if they have no funds with which to pay. BUT: before your elderly parents head for the phone to call 911 because one of them sees their loved-one seething on the floor must they have to ponder the bill, deductibles, and collection mongers? This is NOT my choice!
Bonnie Whyte April 26, 2012 at 09:24 PM
I have yet to see a comparison of how the DC area charges and collects it's fees. I am sure that insurance may cover some of it, but how much? How much out of pocket? How much will my premiums increase? How does it work if I collapse in DC vs Fairfax vs Prince Georges? While I think we pay very high taxes, I would like to know how it currently works elsewhere in the area, who pays what, what happens to the poor, elderly, etc. and change in use once charges were imposed.
David Richman April 27, 2012 at 12:34 PM
With many seniors on waiting list for needed services that are inadequately funded by the county, NOT collecting legitimate fees from insurance many of us pay for, fees that can help reduce these waiting lists, is poor management
Arlene K. Polangin April 28, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Once again, this will impact all, not only in increases on insurance premiums, but it will hit hardest those with lower or fixed incomes, particularly as Montgomery County is increasing in the number of seniors on fixed incomes. Is the goal to run those out of the county to other locations?
Peter Kunz April 28, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Bonnie: I wish that I could fully answer your questions and better address your issues which seem to be in constant, flux. I can address some of your questions: By calling 911 (a part of the Emergency Number Systems Board) from anywhere in the Metro DC area and likely anywhere in the US, you WILL get help, and likely (in Montgomery County, MD) even more help than you might need/expect. Regardless, even in DC you WILL get adequate EMS support. DC has come a LONG way with EMS improvement. We at BCC Rescue have a direct phone & radio link to them and share immediate & vital, care-providing information with them. You may initially be transported, because of the urgency of your needs, to THE closest facility for your stabilization and then later, be transferred to a specialized hospital. From within our (B-CCRS) “DC coverage area” do call us at (301-652-1000). We will respond and transport you with NO fees AT ALL, involved! We at BCC, in conjunction with your wishes, your needs, and with the concordance of your physician(s) are NOT constrained by ANY Government directive. We are 100% highly trained volunteers and are proud of our autonomy and respective of YOUR wishes. ((This is NOT a “public service announcement”; just the feelings of one (me) who has been in the business for too much longer than 40 years)). Another caveat: These opinions are mine alone and do NOT represent any Official statement or opinion of my Corporation!
Bob Beveridge May 06, 2013 at 05:42 PM
I agree with you Pete. If they start charging for ambulance service, when will they start charging when you need fire services, even though they collect taxes for that purpose. Bob Beveridge

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