Leggett Proposes EMS Transport Reimbursement to Offset State "Tidal Wave" Cost Shift to County

Responding to the decision by the State of Maryland to shift hundreds of millions of dollars in costs to the County, County Executive Ike Leggett has proposed to the Council the “Emergency Medical Services Transport Reimbursement Act.” This legislation would allow the County to be reimbursed by private health insurance companies and the federal government for ambulance service, just as hospitals seek reimbursement from insurers for treating patients – and just as nearly every other jurisdiction in the region already does.

“As a County resident -- whether insured or uninsured -- you would not, by law, pay a dime,” said Leggett. “You wouldn’t even receive a bill. The County would accept the reimbursement offered as payment in full and would waive all co-pays and deductibles.

“And 100 percent of the reimbursements would be dedicated by law to meeting the critical and growing needs of our Fire & Rescue Service.

“Why am I proposing this? It’s simple.

“Montgomery County is about to be hit by a ‘tidal wave’ from Annapolis.

“The State of Maryland has recently decided to shift over $400 million over 10 years in state teacher pension costs to Montgomery County. The State has also approved an inflexible 'Maintenance of Effort' law on school funding that could force us to add at least $25 million to our reserves each year above and beyond what we already do.

“These are changed circumstances of monumental importance. These changes were not before the voters in 2010 when the County’s EMS reimbursement program was not approved.

“That is the reason why I am proposing this bill, which has already drawn broad support, including editorials in favor from the Washington Post and The Gazette.

“Either you allow the County to request reimbursement from insurance companies and the federal government from premiums already paid to them  -- just as nearly every other jurisdiction in the region does – or you raise taxes or cut services already reduced severely over the past five years.

“In fact, not having the millions of dollars in reimbursements could mean less Fire & Rescue staffing, less equipment and longer response times. That could jeopardize the health and safety of the public. That’s a real-life impact – not a vague hypothetical.

“Most jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia and the majority of communities in the United States are recovering millions of dollars in costs from insurers – with no adverse impacts. No evidence of folks not calling 911 when they need an ambulance. No adverse effects on volunteer companies.  And no increase in insurance rates – that’s because the costs of emergency services – a minuscule bit of health care costs -- are already included in the premiums charged by insurers and paid by County residents. And, in most cases, the EMS reimbursement was supported by volunteers in those counties.

“The $180 million we would collect from insurance companies and the federal government would go a long way toward offsetting a significant portion of that $400 million-plus cost shift from the State.

“It would be irresponsible not to pick up $18 million every year that’s sitting on the table to be collected – without costing County residents one dime. The status quo puts the full burden of supporting our Fire & Rescue Service on the taxpayers. Sure, we could raise taxes and cut services – a lot – to meet the cost shift from the State but – really – why should we? That is the choice.”

The Council public hearing on the legislation will be held on May 8 with action by the full Council on May 15.

  • Post editorial in support of EMS Act (pdf)
  • Gazette editorial in support of EMS Act (pdf)
  • County Executive memo to the County Council and Act (pdf)
  • EMS Reimbursement Programs in Maryland, Virginia and National Capital Region Maps (pdf)
    POSTED AT: Thursday, April 26, 2012 | 9:00:00 AM |
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