Despite voters striking down the Montgomery County ambulance fee in a referendum on the ballot in 2010, Montgomery County Council passed the fee again Tuesday with a 6-3 vote. Several councilmembers said there was a misinformation campaign surrounding the 2010 referendum vote.
Councilmembers Councilman Phil Andrews (D, Dist-3), Roger Berliner (D-Dist. 1) and George Leventhal (D-At Large) were opposed.
While Andrews implored councilmembers to respect the will of the voters, some of the county lawmakers were disturbed at how voters were educated about the ambulance fee.
Many residents who voted against the fee thought county residents would have to pay the $300 to $800 fee per ambulance ride, Councilman Mark Elrich (D-At Large) said.
“That’s a blatant lie,” Elrich said. “Residents won’t pay.”
Only the insurance companies of non-residents using ambulance services would have to pay, according to the legislation.
In fact, the fee would put money back into the pockets of residents, Elrich said.
“County residents will pay less in taxes if the ambulance fee is put in place,” he said. Taxpayer money used to support non-resident ambulance rides would be payed for by insurance companies.
“Respect for the voters begins with what you tell the voters,” Elrich said. The disinformation campaign was not respectful to the voters.
Councilman Hans Reimer (D-At Large) agreed with Elrich.
“As a candidate in 2010 I witnessed the confusion surrounding this issue,” Reimer said.
Residents are already paying, through their insurers, for the possibility of an ambulance fee.
“That’s money left in the pocket of the insurer,” Reimer said.
An ambulance fee for non-residents is already in place in the areas surrounding Montgomery County. In Prince George’s County the ambulance fee brings in $11.5 million a year. In Fairfax County, they collected $15 million a year. And in Washington D.C., $20 million in ambulance fees were collected.