Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett today urged Council approval of his new Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Transport Insurance Reimbursement Act, which includes a package of amendments that significantly change the legislation from an EMS measure that was the subject of a referendum in 2010.
The Act would allow the County to recover $18 million a year in EMS costs from insurers and the government, at no cost to County residents -- whether or not they have health insurance. County residents would not even get a bill. Currently, all costs for the County Fire & Rescue Services are borne entirely by County taxpayers. Montgomery County is nearly the only jurisdiction in the region that does not have the authority to collect reimbursements.
The significant changes in the legislation include:
- Specify in the law that County residents pay no out-of-pocket expenses relating to any County EMS transport;
- Prohibit Fire & Rescue Service personnel who respond to a request for emergency transport from seeking any insurance information from those being served;
- Establish an Emergency Medical Services Patient Advocate in the Office of Consumer Protection;
- Require the Fire Chief to report on a semiannual basis to the County Executive and County Council on implementation of the Act; and
- Require a broad public education campaign as the program is implemented, especially focused on “New American” communities and County seniors.
“We have gotten great feedback from County residents on what they think an EMS reimbursement program should look like,” said County Executive Leggett. “This new legislation incorporates that – a guarantee of no out-of-pocket expenses for County residents, no participation by first responders in getting insurance information, an independent patient advocate, regular progress reports, and a broad public education campaign.
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“It’s all good and it makes for a different – but better – piece of legislation and program. And I’m open to working with the Council on any changes they might suggest.”
“And, as before, 100 percent of the proceeds would go to strengthen our Fire & Rescue Service. And, of course, our Fire & Rescue Service will continue to serve all in need, regardless of ability to pay. Just like before – no change.
“Just as the legislation is different from 2010, so is the overall context.”
“Recent decisions in Annapolis will shift over $400 million over 10 years in state teacher pension costs to Montgomery County. Approval of a ‘Maintenance of Effort’ law on school funding could force the County to add an additional $25 million to our reserves -- each year. By collecting $18 million a year from insurance companies and the federal government, we can offset a large portion of this cost shift.
“Just as hospitals seek reimbursement from insurers for treating patients, Montgomery County should be doing what most jurisdictions in Maryland and Virginia and the nation already do – get reimbursement from insurance companies for EMS treatment and transport. Communities that get reimbursed by insurers have seen no impact on the quality of service and no impact on insurance rates. These costs are already factored into insurance premiums that are already paid by County residents.
“It is fundamentally wrong to allow County taxpayers to foot the bill for millions of dollars that insurers pay nearly everywhere else in the nation. Instead of asking ‘Why should we pass the EMS Act?’ we should be wondering, ‘Why haven’t we done this sooner?’”