If you are planning to move to Montgomery County, MD in the near future you may want to think again. While I have lived in this middle class suburb of Washington, DC almost all my life, County Executive Doug Duncan’s latest proposal gives me pause. Duncan has re-introduced his plan to charge residents for ambulance service. The fees? $350 for basic service and $650 if you need paramedics.
Duncan doesn’t think the fees are unreasonable because he figures that Medicare will take care of most of the bill for the heaviest users, the growing senior population. I guess he figures the 20% co-payment for service won’t be a burden. But what about those not covered by Medicare or insurance? How will they pay? Once again Duncan shrugs this off by saying the county wont’ force people to pay who can’t. Then in his budget projections there isn’t any mention of the possible charge offs or bad debt throwing into doubt the accuracy of the numbers. He also faces the opposition from the volunteer rescue squads who provide ambulance service in addition to the Fire Department but rely on their annual door to door campaign to raise money. Why donate if the county is going to charge a fee?
Doug Duncan apparently thought that with a overwhelming majority on the county council and in a very socially progressive county, that he wouldn’t have any trouble in advancing his idea. But, residents of the county are also sick and tired of rising income and property taxes as well as fees for services. I still remember several years ago when Duncan pushed through a state of the art recycling facility that he said would pay for itself in no time by selling the recycled material to businesses and others. The only problem was that the recycling program was so successful that we wound up with a glut of material that depressed prices. The result? A recycling fee on our property tax bill. Residents now get to pay for the privilege of voluntarily recycling their household items. What a great idea! Since Duncan is planning to run for governor in 2006, Marylanders should be prepared to see Doug’s bright ideas go statewide should he be elected.