Despite overturning voters last year to gain the power to charge for ambulance rides, Montgomery County has yet to bill any insurance companies for emergency medical transports so far this year.
Federal paperwork for billing Medicare and Medicaid is holding up the process, but county officials say they will still collect, retroactively, for transports made so far this year.
Arguing the county’s fiscal situation had changed since 2010 when voters overwhelmingly rejected a similar county law establishing an EMS fee, County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) last spring proposed a nearly identical program to bill for the ambulance rides, assuring that no county resident would pay a dime. His program passed the County Council in a 6-3 vote.
But as of Thursday, no insurance company had been billed under the program since the program started Jan. 1.
County spokesman Patrick Lacefield said it is paperwork that is holding the county back from collecting.
Montgomery needed a number from the federal government to bill Medicaid and Medicare. Leggett said the county waited to seek the number, in part, because the county faced a potential referendum challenge.
Leggett estimated the program would bring in as much as $18 million in annual revenue once fully implemented. Insurance companies would be charged from $400 to $800 for each ambulance ride.
An open opponent of the program, Councilman Philip M. Andrews, said the delay in billing could result in less revenue collected under the program in 2013.
Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, who chairs the council Public Safety committee, said he was assured by Fire Chief Richard R. Bowers Jr. that the county would not spend money it did not collect.
Local fire and rescue departments will receive 15 percent of the collections, or about $2.7 million in the first full year, according to an agreement between the county and the volunteers.
The agreement also stipulates that the money may be used by local fire and rescue departments for facilities, apparatus and equipment owned by the departments, supplies, training, recruitment and retention, support and administrative personnel.
Bowers said everything else is in place for the program, and the county should be ready to start billing in the next several weeks.