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Baltimore County Police and Fire News

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The Baltimore County Fire Department plans to begin recouping patient transport costs from private insurers, Medicare and Medicaid and investing those funds in public resources.

A proposal to begin billing and collecting funds for emergency medical  transports from private insurers, Medicaid and Medicare is scheduled for County Council discussion on July 28 and a Council vote on August 3. The proposal includes contracting with MED3000 Inc., a Pittsburgh-based health care management company, to handle billing and collection.

Across Maryland and the nation, such billing and collection has become a standard, accepted part of Fire administration and an important mechanism for offsetting the costs of medical transport. In Maryland, Calvert and Baltimore counties are the only jurisdictions that do not charge insurers for transport fees or levy a fire tax to help cover the cost of such transports. EMS service accounts for the overwhelming majority of calls received by fire departments.

Baltimore County residents will not be personally responsible for paying for ambulance transport as a result of this change. Residents without insurance, residents with insurance co-pays and residents whose insurers refuse to pay for transport will not be responsible for transport fees; their local tax dollars will be considered payment toward the fee.

“No county resident will pay one penny out of his or her own pocket for ambulance service,” said Fire Chief John J. Hohman.

The County will seek payment for emergency transport from non-county residents and their insurance companies. However, no resident or non-resident should ever hesitate to call 911 in a medical emergency; no one will be denied transport based on ability to pay.

Millions in New Revenue

County officials estimate that the new transport fees – levied on approximately 85,000 medical calls annually – may generate as much as $26 million per year in future years, after the program is fully implemented. This revenue will be placed in the County’s general fund.

The program is scheduled to begin September 1.

 The County’s 33 volunteer fire companies – especially the 21 companies that provide medical service – will benefit from the transport fees. The BCVFA and BCoFD plan to develop a revenue sharing program in which transport fee funds will help companies that provide medical service cover reasonable EMS-related operating expenses.  The fees will benefit the companies that do not provide EMS service by freeing up other funds for maintenance, equipment, fuel and training.

In a recent report, the Baltimore County Volunteer Firemen’s Association strongly endorsed billing insurance companies, Medicaid and Medicare for emergency transport.

How the Transport Fees Will Work

The new fees will be $700 or $750 per transport, depending upon the level of care required. In addition, private health insurers, Medicare and Medicaid will be billed $10 per mile of transport.

Other important information:

  • The new fees will be levied only when a patient is transported by medic to a hospital; EMS calls that do not involve transport will not involve a fee. Patients who refuse transport will sign a form documenting their refusal.
  • All patients will be transported regardless of insurance coverage or ability to pay.
  • No payment will be collected at the time of transport, and EMS responders will not seek patient insurance information. EMS responders will obtain authorization to bill the patient’s insurer along with permission to transport. After transport, the contractor, MED3000, will work with the hospital to obtain the patient’s information.
  • Non-county residents who use Baltimore County EMS transport will be billed for transport fees not covered by insurance, Medicare or Medicaid. The County will seek collection of these fees.
  • MED3000 customer service representatives will handle questions or concerns about billing and insurance related to medical transport.

MED3000 will receive about 4 percent of the amount collected based on the annual average cost per transport.

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski visited the Rosedale Volunteer Fire Co. today to announce that Baltimore County firefighters will receive $2.3 million in federal grants to help replace aging equipment.

The money will pay for new self-contained breathing apparatus for career and volunteer stations. The current SCBA inventory is 15 years old and at the end of its life cycle.

The money comes through Assistance to Firefighters Grants. AFG helps fire departments and EMS organizations meet firefighting and emergency response needs.

The AFG grant will not cover the entire cost of replacing SCBA; Baltimore County will contribute significantly to the purchase of this essential gear.

Recruitment and Retention

Senator Mikulski also announced a federal SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant to Maryland State Firemen’s Association. The $2.3 million grant will be used to help volunteer fire companies recruit and retain well-trained responders.

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz and Fire Chief John Hohman – as well as representatives from the Maryland State and Baltimore County Firemen’s Associations – attended the Rosedale announcement.

The threat of carbon monoxide buildup in homes and businesses escalates during periods of severe cold.

Produced by the incomplete burning of solid, liquid or gaseous fuels such as oil, kerosene, natural gas and wood, carbon monoxide (CO) is a deadly gas that robs the body of oxygen. It is especially dangerous because it is invisible and odorless. CO can make you sick – or even kill you -- without your knowing it is there.

During the winter months, first responders often see CO buildup related to improperly maintained fireplaces, furnaces and wood stoves; ranges and stoves used as supplemental heating devices; and especially to the improper use of portable generators.

"This information is extremely important and can be a matter of life and death," said Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz.  "I hope that everyone will read this carefully and share it with family and friends."


Use of CO Alarms

The easiest and most effective tool to prevent CO poisoning is use of CO alarms, which sound an alert based on exposure to the gas over time. (CO, measured in parts per million, is a cumulative gas; at high levels, it can kill quickly, and at low levels it can gradually sicken.) The device will go off before the average adult would experience symptoms of CO exposure, allowing people to get out of the house and take steps to correct the source of the problem.

In two separate incidents one day last month, 10 county residents were taken to local hospitals after carbon monoxide leaks related to faulty home furnaces. Significantly, neither household had a single carbon monoxide detector.

“CO alarms save lives,” said Fire Chief John Hohman. “Every home that includes a fuel-burning appliance has the potential to generate carbon monoxide, and every home should have alarms to detect carbon monoxide.”

Emergencies involving CO have resulted in important state and local regulations regarding CO and CO detectors, including a Baltimore County law requiring carbon monoxide alarms in all rental housing. There has been one fatal incident in Baltimore County since this law was enacted several years ago, and none since 2010. 

Mike Mohler, Chief Administrator of Permits, Inspections and Approvals, said the current cold snap is a good time to remind all tenants and landlords in Baltimore County that, under county law, all units with a fuel-burning appliance or heating system, including a fire place, must have installed a fully functioning CO detector."

If your alarm sounds, dial 911 and get out of the house. First responders will try to identify the source of the problem and will mitigate the emergency by ventilating the home and, if possible, shutting off the source of the CO. If the problem involves a plumbing or appliance repair, the homeowner or landlord must contact a licensed contractor.

Additional information about carbon monoxide is available on our fact sheet.

About Portable Generators

Portable generators have become popular tools for dealing with power outages. Data from the National Fire Protection Association shows that, nationwide, CO illnesses and deaths related to the use of generators have risen along with generator sales.

 Generators emit far higher levels of CO than an automobile. Opening doors and window or using fans will not prevent CO build-up in the home.

Never operate a generator indoors - including in a basement or garage or in areas with ventilation. Operate generators at least 15 feet from windows, doors and vents that could allow CO to enter your home.

For additional information, see our fact sheet on portable generator use.

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