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MoCo Council Votes Down Ambulance Fee

The Montgomery County Council today voted down a proposed ambulance fee that County Executive Isiah Leggett said was needed to balance the budget during the economic downturn but was vehemently opposed by many residents and the influential volunteer firefighters' organization.

The proposed fee was designed to charge health insurance companies -- not residents -- $300 to $800 for ambulance transport, an amount is similar to charges in the District and Prince George's and Fairfax counties.

But the volunteer firefighters and some residents aregued that it might discourage people from calling emergency services.

Leggett (D) warned that he might have to cut other programs and delay improving emergency services if the fee was not approved.

Voting against the fee were council members Phil Andrews (D-Gaithersburg-Rockville), Roger Berliner (D-Potomac-Bethesda), Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring), Nancy Navarro (D-Eastern County) and Duchy Trachtenberg (D-At large). In favor were Marc Elrich (D-At large), Mike Knapp (D-Upcounty), and George Leventhal (D-At large). Nancy Floreen (D-At large) abstained.

Leventhal unsuccessfully proposed extending the debate by six months.

By Anne Bartlett  |  June 30, 2009; 11:27 AM ET
Categories:  Miranda Spivack  
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What is with Leggett and this ambulance fee? The council has turned it down, the citizens have overwhelmingly said that they don't want it, and the firefighters are against it. Leggett is obviously in his own little world. Maybe it's time that he move on and let someone else run the county.

Posted by: postisarag | June 30, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

"But the volunteer firefighters and some residents aregued that it might discourage people from calling emergency services." Yes. It is possible that UNINFORMED people might be discouraged from calling emergency services. Why? Because of faulty learning, they believe THE COUNTY will send them a huge bill for a ride to the hospital. It requires a leap of faith to predict citizens will understand that the plan was to charge INSURANCE COMPANIES for transport service. No insurance? No problem. No bill. Everybody else in the health care field has his hand out. Why not THE COUNTY?

Posted by: BlueTwo1 | June 30, 2009 12:01 PM | Report abuse

To correct postisarag comments, the firefighters are not against billing for Ambulance Transports. Certain volunteer fire department leaders are against it because they feel they will lose power. Some of the volunteers (the ones who actually run calls and don't just drive around a free suv with free gas provided by the tax payers)and the career firefighters (who handle probaly 75-80% of the actual call load in the county are for ambulance billing. The only residents that are against are the ones being brain washed by the Volunteer Association's leaders (which most of their leaders haven't ridden an ambulance or a fire truck in many years). County taxes are just going to keep going up instead of billing insurance companies. If you have insurance, you are paying double to take an ambulance (the taxes you pay and the health insurance you pay). By billing insurance companies, it also pushes some of the costs onto the actually users insurance. All of the residents in Mont CO need to wake up and tell the county council that they are walking away from free money (14-20 million). And you wonder why this country is in trouble. That is what happens when liberal society hands out free money to people that don't deserve it but in turn wil not accept free money in return.

Posted by: biteme5 | June 30, 2009 12:53 PM | Report abuse

Wouldn't want the illegals to pay for their healthcare would we?

Posted by: indep2 | June 30, 2009 1:07 PM | Report abuse

It's fair to get the ambulance fee from the insurance companies and not patients. Insurance companies charge that $300 to $800 for use of the ambulance, which is totally ridiculous.

Posted by: cricket35 | June 30, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

If you charge the insurance companies they're just going to pass that charge on to their customers.

Posted by: CrestwoodKat | June 30, 2009 1:40 PM | Report abuse

Why in the world would anybody want to charge such an exhorbant fee for ambulance service when the insurance companies will make it their business to bill US! Thos that are fortunate enough to have insurance.

Posted by: alligator10 | June 30, 2009 1:57 PM | Report abuse

Were we to expect that insurance companies would happily foot the bill for these new fees, if approved? No, they'd pass them onto their subscribers in the forms of higher premiums, higher deductibles, and lovely phrases like "life & limb" where if THEY determine that you're life and/or limb wasn't in danger after the fact (no matter what YOU thought at the time), then you get to cough up for the bill anyways. I know this from PERSONAL experience when it happened to me in San Francisco and I DO NOT want to see it here in Montgomery County.

Kudos to the Montgomery County Council for doing the RIGHT thing.

Posted by: taupecat | June 30, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse

I suspect there is plenty of waste to cut yet. Ike, what about your fancy bathroom?
I agree that the insurance companies will pass along the fee - OR they will only pay a portion and the user gets stuck with a large payment, regardless.

Posted by: shadowshopper1981 | June 30, 2009 2:38 PM | Report abuse

Just to correct some statements about volunteer firefighters. The Career (paid, i.e., unionized) firefighters handle most of the calls that come in Monday through Friday during normal working hours. Calls that come in at other hours, on weekends, during holidays, etc., are taken care of by the volunteers for the most part. And while about 70% of the career firefighters live outside Montgomery County, virtually all of the volunteers live in the county.

Posted by: MrBethesda | June 30, 2009 2:39 PM | Report abuse

MrBethesda, career firefighters work nights and weekends. Most of them are on the 24-hours on, 48-hours off schedule. That puts them at work at 3:00 a.m. as well as 3:00 p.m., and it puts them at work every third day, which often lands on a Saturday or a Sunday. Volunteers work all hours and all days too.

Posted by: lsturt | June 30, 2009 3:19 PM | Report abuse

There are two types of democracy at work here.

There's the "top down" model where you elect officials and they rule you.

But there's also the "bottom up" grassroots model, where people organize among themselves and volunteer to provide services.

And if you volunteer, you shouldn't be forced against your will by the "top down" people to charge for your services.

Posted by: mikegordon1 | June 30, 2009 3:20 PM | Report abuse

If the county is going to charge an ambulance fee, then we can expect them to start charging for fire department service, too. The standard Maryland Homeowner's insurance policy covers most charges from fire departments, even though few, if any, fire departments charge anything for fire service.

Posted by: postisarag | June 30, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad to see this legislation defeated. What do our taxes, ie, property, piggy back income taxes, surcharges and fees on my cell phone, cable and internet bill, landline phone bills go to? When will our countly leaders decide to stop spending, spending, spending which then requires taxing, taxing and more taxing? Oooops, I mean more fees?

Posted by: Cfhoag | June 30, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Ways to save money so the county won't have to raise taxes to pay for essential services:
Cut all county employees salaries by 10 percent.
Cut bus service for high schoolers, they can get healthy by walking.
Double or triple the parking fee for school kids.
No more credit cards for any county employee.
Increase taxes, tariffs, impact fees whatever you call it, on businesses that bring more people here that demand more public services.
Elect councilmembers who will just say NO to new spending.

Posted by: VikingRider | July 1, 2009 4:04 PM | Report abuse

The county is collecting over $53,000 a day in speed camera taxes and just increased parking fees in Bethesda 33%. Why do they need to increase ambulance fees on top of that?

Posted by: robinfickerofrobinrealty | July 2, 2009 2:41 PM | Report abuse

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