Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Premiums will rise when insurance gets bill for ambulance fees

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In his presentation of the ‘‘facts” concerning the proposed county emergency medical services fee to be paid by insurance companies (‘‘Residents will not be charged ambulance fee,” April 30 commentary), surely Patrick Lacefield, director of the Montgomery County Office of Public Information, does not mean to suggest that residents wouldn’t pay, and what we would have here is a ‘‘free lunch.”

The key sentence is, ‘‘Call me judgmental, but I’d rather recover monies that are already paid for by subscribers and set aside by health insurance companies and the federal government (through Medicare) for this purpose than to ask our taxpayers to pay more taxes or accept a reduction in services.”

Isn’t it naive to assume private and public insurers will not, in turn, recover their monies by assessing higher premiums to be paid by (guess who?) taxpayers? His up-front statements of fact, ‘‘County residents will not pay anything” and ‘‘People with insurance will not get a bill — their insurance company will,” cries out for clarification. Will insured residents get an explanation of benefits? Will they not pay when their premiums go up, and therefore end up subsidizing services for the uninsured?

Furthermore, ‘‘Only non-county residents without insurance will receive a bill, which can be waived at the discretion of the fire chief” needs further explanation. How and when will residential and insurance status be determined? Will there be hesitation to call for service when an out-of-county visitor is having an emergency? Is the waiver determination a proper function of the fire chief?

Susanne Humphrey, Wheaton

I am a Montgomery County firefighter and EMT. As a volunteer I am shocked and disappointed that Montgomery County would consider charging ambulance fees for the help that I and others provide on a volunteer basis.

It’s a mistake to believe that by creating ambulance fees to cover the cost of providing emergency services the county can transfer a fundamental responsibility of local government to insurance companies without any hidden negative impacts.

People in need of emergency assistance should not be given cause to delay dialing 911 to reflect on what fee might result by calling for help. It is shortsighted to not consider that insurance rates (shared by all who are insured) will necessarily increase to cover the cost of the ambulance fees.

Another hidden cost will result from the need to hire more career emergency service providers to replace those volunteers who refuse to serve if patient charges are instituted.

Emergency services should be provided by the community for the common good.

Harold V. Tarver, Wheaton