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MoCo Ambulance Fee Gains Traction with Council

Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett's proposed ambulance transport fee appeared to be gaining some traction yesterday afternoon with two of three members of the County Council's Public Safety Commitee, which will have the first word on the measure before it reaches the full council.

The Council has been inundated with more than 900 calls in opposition to the fee that would raise revenue for emergency services. Opponents argue that the fee would deter residents from calling 911.

But both Don Praisner (D-Eastern County) and Marc Elrich (D-At-Large) yesterday suggested that they weren't buying that argument.

"Trying to prove whether a fee prevents a person from calling or not is irrelevant," Praisner said. "Whether you pay or you don't pay, if a person needs an ambulance, they are going to call."

Elrich said residents without health insurance "are afraid of calling period. I don't think the fee is a detriment."

Leggett and supporters stress that the legislation is designed to bill health insurance companies - not residents - and that uninsured residents will not be charged.

Opposition has been led by the county's well-organized volunteer firefighters, who believe a fee for service is at odds with their core mission. The committee's chairman Phil Andrews (D-Rockville-Gaithersburg) also opposes the measure.

Separately, the county's Fire and Rescue Commission - whose members are appointed by the county executive - voted 4 to 3 earlier in the week to oppose the ambulance fee.

By Ann Marimow  |  September 26, 2008; 9:05 AM ET
Categories:  Ann Marimow , Montgomery County  
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What is next? Charging for calling the police? Charging school fees? Oh, they are already trying that. The County has no concept whatsoever as to how to control spending. Wait till they give us a 15% to 20% increase in property taxes next year! Why should somebody have to pay a Frederick oil company a Montgomery County energy tax to have oil delivered to their home in Mon tgomery County? What is the nexus? Not heating the home is not an option. Don't forget that Leggett and Knapp still want a higher gasoline tax. There is much more to come, unfortunately.

Posted by: Robin Ficker, Broker Robin Realty | September 26, 2008 1:37 PM | Report abuse

EMS Transport fee is projected to generate about $16M net per year, roughly equivalent to a penny on the property tax.

Insurance companies and MediCare/MediCade will pay the fee, something your insurance company is already charging you for. Free ride for the insurance companies vs additional revenue for the citizens?

Most of the surrounding jurisdictions charge the fee, no reports at all of an increase in insurance rates, or of a decrease in rates in MOCO because we don't collect the fee.

Frederick County Volunteer Association testimony shows no impact on call load or on volunteer fund raising.

Some of the surrounding jurisdictions, such as Alexandria, have been charging a fee for over 40 years. Safe to say it hasn't had an impact on call load.

Could we take a break on harping on the property tax, too. Somewhat progressive, the burden here is below national averages, and the total tax load isn't much above the national average. What government services would you like to cut?
Police, Fire, Schools, Health and Human Services, Snow plows, Library hours? The things that make this an attractive place to live and work, and the service expansion to deal with an increased population, require revenue. Which ones do you find fair, and progressive? Which ones would you keep?

Energy taxes, same deal. Pay the Saudi's, Chavez, Exxon/Mobile, et al, or pay some of those wilding swinging increases back to the State and Fed, for alternate energy means, mass transit, etc, and establish a floor for energy prices so the market can work to get people to conserve and make choices for more fuel efficient vehicles because the delta between the operating cost for the Hummer vs the Prius now reflects some of the costs of burning a finite resource to move an oversized mass of metal on chores for which it is clearly too big.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 29, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

I want my ambulance fee to go to subsidizing the Live Nation drive by shooting victim pick ups. I wouldn't expect a billion dollar corporation to pay for the bus, when it can be put on my back.

Posted by: Apilgrim | September 29, 2008 3:21 PM | Report abuse

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