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Md County Council Rejects EMS Fee

ROCKVILLE - The Montgomery County Council today voted by a 5-3-1 margin not to approve County Executive Isiah Leggett's proposal for fee charges that would apply to an Emergency Medical Service Transport Fee (also known as an ambulance fee).

Although Regulation 20-08 proposed the fee schedule, the Council months ago tabled the bill authorizing an ambulance fee. Council President Phil Andrews, Vice President Roger Berliner and Councilmembers Valerie Ervin, Nancy Navarro and Duchy Trachtenberg voted against approval of Regulation 20-08. Councilmembers Marc Elrich, Mike Knapp and George Leventhal voted against rejecting the regulation. Councilmember Nancy Floreen abstained.

Prior to the vote, Councilmember Leventhal made a motion to delay consideration of the regulation for up to six months, but that motion was defeated 5-4. Regulation 20-08 centered on County Executive Leggett's transmission on May 1 of a proposed fee schedule that would have been used if the County implemented an ambulance fee. The fee schedule would have ranged from $300 for basic life support (such as transport to a medical facility for a broken leg) to $800 for specialty care transport (which could include strokes and heart attacks). The fee schedule also included a proposed charge of $8.75 per mile of transport travel.

Regulation 20-08 would have applied if the County implemented an ambulance fee, but the County Council has not approved that proposal and unanimously voted to table the ambulance fee legislation last November. In spring 2008, the County Executive proposed Bill 25-08 that would create a transport fee to achieve about $12.5 million annually in net revenue.

The plan would have fees billed to the insurance companies of County residents with health insurance. County residents without health insurance would not be asked to pay fees. Non-County residents with health insurance would have their insurance companies billed for ambulance transports (those individuals may be responsible for deductibles and co-pays). Non-County residents without insurance could request hardship waivers.

County President Andrews said he rejects the claim that health insurance companies would absorb $14 million for ambulance transports rather than pass the costs along to ratepayers. He also notes concerns shared by the County's volunteer fire departments that some people would hesitate to call for an ambulance if fees of $300 to $800 were approved. "The overwhelming number of calls and letters we have received at the Council since the County Executive proposed an ambulance fee in spring 2008 oppose the fee," said Council President Andrews. "Today, a majority of the Council has said it would not support this plan."

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