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Ambulance fee backers set up advocacy arm

Backers of Montgomery County's ambulance fee on Tuesday outlined what they promised will be a broad-based campaign, including direct mail and get-out-the-vote efforts, to win residents' support Nov. 2.

Using an ambulance in Rockville as a backdrop, they pointed to a long list of supporters of the fee, including the League of Women Voters and a majority of the state's delegation to Annapolis.

Proponents of the fee registered an issue committee called Vote for A with state officials in recent days. It's chaired by Del. Sheila Hixon, chair of the House Ways and Means committee, who was among the state legislators, county officials, representatives of public employee unions and social services advocates who rallied support Tuesday.

Under the program, county residents would not get a bill; the fee would be charged to insurance companies directly. Outside residents without insurance would get a bill, but could seek a hardship waiver.

Critics of the fee argue that some people could be discouraged from calling 911. The issue has spurred debate on the role of government and how best to raise money for public safety needs.

"I have a question for those who oppose the County getting reimbursements: If this will have such a terrible effect, where then is the evidence of that in all the jurisdictions all around us? Why hasn't this program been repealed in those places?" asked Montgomery County Fire Chief Richard Bowers in a prepared statement. "It hasn't, because it works."

A group spokesman, Edward Cooper, said Vote for A has collected sufficient funds for "a substantial education and outreach effort," though he said specifics were not immediately available.

By Michael Laris  | October 19, 2010; 6:29 PM ET
Tags:  montgomery county; montgomery county ambulance fee  
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