The push to approve Montgomery County ambulance fees

The PR campaign for Montgomery County voters to approve ambulance fees is underway. Those backing ambulance fees held a news conference Tuesday trying to rally support. Critics contend the fees will deter people from calling 9-1-1 and may lead to higher insurance rates. No county resident, whether you have insurance or not, will ever get a bill or pay a penny.

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The push to spread the message about ambulance fees in Montgomery County is intensifying as election day draws closer.

"There literally is nothing left. That's why it's so important for us to have this revenue stream to continue the service delivery that we currently have for the residents of Montgomery County," said Montgomery County Fire Chief Richie Bowers.

Those in favor of the emergency medical services transport fee say they are just asking for the right to bill insurance companies for ambulance service. They say residents will be covered and won't have to pay a cent.

If the question on the November 2nd ballot doesn't pass, County Executive Ike Leggett says he will have to find $14 million in revenue by making cuts, including to fire and EMS. Critics call that a scare tactic.

"We're in tough economic times but the county shouldn't resort to chasing ambulances for revenue," said Phil Andrews, an ambulance fee opponent.

Ambulance fee opponents ask what about the partially insured or the 200,000 who come to the county to work who wouldn't be covered? Mark Kaplowitz says he pays enough in taxes and that Leggett should take a second look at the budget.

"The County Executive, Isiah Leggett, oughta re-think his full-time security detail and his remodeled bathroom in his office in Rockville," said Kaplowitz, who lives in Silver Spring.

Dentist Alan Marx says he's voting "yes" on question a because he wants insurance to pick up the $300 to $800 transport charge.

Marx told us, "Oh, they should definitely be able to bill insurance companies ... Insurance companies are the ruination of America."

Most surrounding jurisdictions have the transport fee. If the referendum passes, all the money would go toward fire and rescue services. Opponents say they can come up with the $14 million without layoffs and harming emergency services.

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