Ruppersberger will push to end Carroll County ambulance fees

February 03, 1999|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger turned up the heat in his battle with Carroll County officials yesterday, promising to push for legislation blocking them from charging Baltimore County residents when Carroll's volunteer ambulance crews cross county lines to respond to calls.

Baltimore County officials say that Carroll County is requiring volunteer ambulance companies to collect fees for service -- and say that violates terms of a 1989 agreement specifying that no jurisdictions in the area would charge the others for services.

"We don't charge anybody for our ambulance services, and they shouldn't charge us for theirs," said Michael H. Davis, a Ruppersberger spokesman.

In a letter sent to the Carroll commissioners yesterday, Ruppersberger said that billing residents of both counties abrogates the 1989 Mutual Aid Agreement and means the ambulance companies could lose immunity from lawsuits, which is provided by state Good Samaritan laws.

"This potential loss of immunity for emergency medical personnel imposes an undue financial burden that was never contemplated," Ruppersberger said.

Bob Alexander, president of the Carroll County Volunteer Fireman's Association, said that his county's 13 volunteer ambulance companies will continue to send bills to Carroll and Baltimore County residents. He said some companies have been billing Carroll residents since 1997 and that they are doing it at the urging of the county commissioners, which contribute to their budgets.

Alexander said Carroll County's 13 volunteer ambulance companies also bill residents across county lines in Howard County, Frederick County and in Pennsylvania, but that no one in the other jurisdictions has complained. The average bill is about $300, he said.

Baltimore County, Howard and Anne Arundel counties do not charge for ambulance services, officials from those counties said.

In Harford County, all but three of the county's 12 volunteer ambulance companies bill residents' insurance companies for service. But they do not press for payments from uninsured individuals, said Ben Kurtz, president of the Fire and EMS Association of Harford County. Baltimore City, which hired a private service to collect ambulance fees in May, charges $250 for ambulance runs. Sun staff writer Larry Carson contributed to this article.

Pub Date: 2/03/99

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