By Sean Tubbs

Charlottesville Tomorrow

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The

Albemarle County Board of Supervisors

have taken the first step towards charging for ambulance service. At their meeting on September 9, 2009, the Board voted unanimously to

adopt an ordinance

that gives the County and volunteer rescue squads the ability to charge fees to those who require an ambulance.


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The County provides about 2,000 transports a year from the ambulance service offered from the Hollymead and Monticello fire stations, which could result in $400,000 in funds generated for the County.

Volunteer rescue squads  would also be eligible to charge the fee once they receive a permit from the County. The money generated would be used to help fund the County’s investments in the rescue squads.

Over forty localities across Virginia have such a system in place, including Orange and Louisa Counties. The ordinance does not specify how much would be charged, but states that “reasonable fees” would be set by the Board of Supervisors.

“The ordinance also specifically provides that no person shall be denied emergency medical services due to an inability to pay,” said County Attorney

Larry Davis

. The County would be required to set up a compassionate billing program. Davis said most people would have their fees covered by Medicare, Medicaid or their insurance providers.

Davis said the adoption of this ordinance is just the first step in the County implementing the fee. Other steps would be securing a contract with a company to handle the account, negotiations with area rescue squads to find out if they want to participate, and a public relations campaign to explain the program to citizens.

Only one person spoke during the public hearing, which was held at 9:30 PM. David Zimmerman, a volunteer with the

Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad

(CARS), urged the County to get out of the ambulance business.

Supervisor

Dennis Rooker

(Jack Jouett) said that 85% of Americans live in an area where revenue recovery programs are in place.  He argued that contributions to Medicare and Medicaid fund the service, and this is a way to reclaim funds that the County deserves.

“Everyone knows about the bleak state of finances for all localities,” Rooker said. “This is one place where we can obtain some fees for services that are generally picked up by third-parties other than our citizens.”

Charlottesville Fire Chief Charles Werner

told City Council in January

that the City did not need to begin charging the EMS revenue recovery fee.

The resource utilization study commissioned by the Board of Supervisors

recommended in February

that the County charge the fee.

County staff will get together to assess how to put the process in place for Hollymead and Monticello. Conversations will be continuing with the rescue squad representatives about developing a process for bringing them in if they choose to participate.

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