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Q & A: Montgomery County's Ambulance Fee, Pt. One

What does the county's ambulance fee mean for you?

 

Earlier this month, Montgomery County and the Montgomery County Volunteer Fire-Rescue Association announced it had signed an passed by the Montgomery County Council.

In the days following the announcement, county officials worried that their message was not being heard and that some media reports had, in the words of Montgomery Fire Chief Richard Bowers, given “the impression that, starting in January, everyone will have to pay for an ambulance ride in Montgomery County.”

“Nothing is further from the truth,” Bowers said in an email to Patch.

Bowers referred residents to a county website with information about the fee.

The website, at www.montgomerycountymd.gov/emts, includes frequently asked questions about the new law.

The following is the first of a two-part “Q & A." Answers are taken from the county website, from Bowers’s email to Patch and from Patch reports on the fee.

Part One discusses what the fee means for you, should you have to call for an ambulance:

Q: When does the new law take effect?

A: Jan. 1.

Q: Will I be billed if I’m transported by ambulance after Jan. 1?

A: No. “County residents who call for an ambulance will never be billed, never pay a cent, never pay a co-pay or deductible,” Bowers said. “If they have insurance, their insurer will be billed. If not, the ride is covered because they are County taxpayers.”

Q: What about people who aren’t county residents?

A: Non-county residents may be responsible for co-pays and deductibles, depending on their insurance policies. Patients who meet financial hardship criteria will be eligible for a waiver of those costs.

Q: So how does the county collect the ambulance fee?

A:  The Emergency Medical Services Transport Insurance Reimbursement Program “gives the county the authority to bill insurers for ambulance transports,” Bowers said. “That’s it—plain and simple.”

Q: What if my insurer only covers part of the cost of medical transport?

A: “The county will accept whatever payment an insurer makes on behalf of a resident as ‘payment in full,’” according to the website on the fee. “Residents will not have to deal with any questions or disputes about payment. Issues that arise will be resolved by a company hired by the county to handle the reimbursements.”

Q: Won’t this increase my insurance premiums?

A: No. “The costs of emergency services are already included in the premiums charged by insurers,” the county’s website says. “Rates are set regionally and nearly all of our surrounding jurisdictions already have EMS reimbursement programs. Instead of collecting reimbursements for emergency services, County taxpayers are footing the bill, boosting profits for insurers.”

Q: Will the level of service of county ambulances be affected?

A: “There is no evidence that similar EMS laws in other jurisdictions have resulted in any reluctance on the part of residents to call for emergency services,” the county’s website says. The law passed by the County Council prohibits fire and rescue personnel from asking patients about their insurance coverage.

Q: What’s the bottom line?

A: “You should never be afraid to call for an ambulance if you need one because of cost,” Bowers said. “There won’t be any.”

Robert Mechner August 29, 2012 at 12:02 AM
Isiah Leggett and those who went along with him on the ambulance fee ignored the will of the people of Montgomery County Maryland. The voters of Montgomery County Maryland voted down the ambulance fee last November 2011. VOTE THESE BUMS OUT OF OFFICE IF THEY RUN AGAIN.
Corbin Dallas Multipass August 29, 2012 at 12:55 AM
Sean, thanks for clarifying all this in a simple and friendly format.
Bob August 29, 2012 at 11:45 AM
How long before the county council changes this so that county resident users of EMTS will have to pay the portion not covered by insurers?
Galo Correa, Jr. August 29, 2012 at 12:33 PM
It is true what Robert Mechner. We voted on this and voters of Montgomery County Maryland voted down the ambulance fee. Why does our Government ask us to vote on it and then don't respect our votes!
Bethesda Guy10 August 29, 2012 at 02:10 PM
The law put to the voters 2 years ago did not include as many waivers for people that are not able to pay. Dropping the fee for those that can't pay it is the major reason the volunteers dropped their objection. The money this fee will recover is simply adding to the bottom lines of insurance companies. I would rather see EMS get the money as their staff haven't had pay raises in over 5 years and hospitals are no longer refilling medical supplies by ambulances used on patients and the county is stuck with those costs as well now. I voted against this on the ballot 2 years ago but with the waivers I'm ok with it now. As much as I may not like the idea of leggett overriding my vote, I'd still rather see EMS get the money as long as those who can't pay the fee won't be charged the fee.
RotoRays August 29, 2012 at 09:36 PM
It would be extremely interesting to know EXACTLY how Leggett computed the anticipated revenue from charging for ambulance and medic services. If Monkey County residents won't be charged, and non-residents will most likely refuse to pay any bills, then where will all of those $$$$$$ come from . . . . especially considering the statement that ambulance and medic personnel will not be permitted to inquire about any possible insurance information ?? Bottom line is that Isiah and Barrack (two of a kind) need to find a new line of work. That will begin on November 6th !!
Bethesda Guy10 August 31, 2012 at 12:07 PM
Did you read the part about insurance companies? It's only Montgomery County residents WITHOUT insurance that won't be billed and non-residents without insurance maybe granted waivers. That's where the money will be coming from. Montgomery County is the ONLY county in the area that wasn't charging this fee. The insurance companies are already prepared to pay the fee.

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