No pact on billing Firefighters balk at county's proposal on ambulance charge; 'This came out of the blue'; Health insurance would be billed for emergency aid


Members of Carroll's 14 volunteer fire companies expressed frustration and surprise at a long-standing county proposal to charge insurance companies for ambulance service.

The four-page proposal was presented Monday to the Carroll County Volunteer Firefighters' Association by county Comptroller Eugene C. Curfman, past president of the association.

The proposal would take effect only if all 14 companies agree.

The County Commissioners reviewed the proposal last week and asked that it be circulated among association officials and the county's 14 fire companies before the association's monthly meeting Monday.

But fire officials said they were taken aback by the measure.

"This came out of the blue," said Art Frotton, Carroll County Ambulance Association president. "This was totally new, and there was no time to review it. We were not included -- this came from the commissioners and their staff."

What perplexes firefighters, Frotton said, is that the commissioners formed a committee last year to study the issue. The committee did not meet, and the commissioners came up with their own recommendation, he said.

County officials were surprised by the firefighters' response.

Robert A. "Max" Bair, county chief of staff, said the proposal had been agreed to in principle at an April 22 meeting between the commissioners and emergency services organization officials.

Both sides agreed to have the county staff do an analysis to determine the benefits to the fire companies and the cost to the county, if the county were to assume responsibility for billing residents for ambulance service, Bair said.

"We told them we were going to do this within a week," Bair said, "so they could take it back to their companies" before Monday's meeting. "We made a commitment to do this and we did.

"The firefighters [as a group] never said no," Bair said. "We even got a letter from the Westminster Fire Department afterward vTC saying they do not want the county to do the billing because they have their own."

Westminster is one of four fire companies already billing insurance providers for ambulance service. The others are Winfield, Union Bridge and Pleasant Valley.

Firefighters are scheduled to meet with the commissioners tomorrow to discuss the proposal and other unresolved issues.

The county pays 85 percent of the fire departments' operating budgets now and the commissioners propose to increase that to 90 percent in the fiscal year beginning July 1.

Pub Date: 5/06/98

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