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Ambulance Fees Debated Again In Montgomery County

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Montgomery County executive Isiah Leggett is pushing for ambulance user fees, saying it would raise more than $14 million a year.
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Montgomery County executive Isiah Leggett is pushing for ambulance user fees, saying it would raise more than $14 million a year.

By Matt Bush

For the third straight year, Montgomery County executive Isiah Leggett is pushing for ambulance user fees. And he's facing opposition from familiar places.

The fees, paid by patients who ride in ambulances to hospitals, would raise more than $14 million a year, according to Leggett. But opponents charge the fees would discourage people from calling 9-1-1, and would hurt volunteer fire departments.

County fire chief Richard Bowers, who supports the fees, dismissed those concerns.

"As your county fire chief, I would not sit here in front of you and being broadcast on TV, and do anything that would hurt a citizen, or a career or volunteer firefighter," he says.

Supporters claim the fees would be paid primarily by insurance companies. Councilman Phil Andrews doesn't buy that.

"I don't believe that insurance companies would pick the cost up," he says. "I think you would see a cost shift to the premiums. My experience with insurance companies is that they have a bottom line and they protect it. They'll recover the costs one way or the other."

All the other jurisdictions in the D.C.-region charge the fees. Supporters and opponents both say it's inconclusive whether fees have had any effect on the volume of EMS calls.

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