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Emmitsburg Volunteer Ambulance Company is Now Billing for Transports

Susan Nicol
Frederick News Post

The insurance company of patients taken to a hospital by the Emmitsburg Ambulance Co. will be charged $300 per trip, said Joe Pelkey, company president. "No one will be denied service," he said, adding that people should not hesitate to call if they need emergency services. Mr. Pelkey said they have contracted with Cornerstone Inc. to handle the billing. "We won’t accept payments at the ambulance company," he said. "They handle it."

Cornerstone will receive 10 percent of the money it collects, which Mr. Pelkey said is normal. Ambulance officers studied federal and state laws on EMS billing before bringing the issue before the general membership earlier this month. With the money generated, Mr. Pelkey said the company hopes to purchase a third ambulance. The volunteers handle about 1,100 calls annually.

Earlier this year, the Emmitsburg area was left out of the countywide tax tier. Both the ambulance company and Vigilant Hose Co. successfully argued that since they are strictly volunteer, local residents would be paying for service in other areas.

Ambulance officials say nothing prevents them from striding out on their own, and Frederick County Commissioner John L. Thompson Jr. said he supports their move. "I think they (ambulance companies) should all be doing this. I've always favored ambulance billing," Mr. Thompson said. "If more companies did it on their own, the less the county would have to do."

Patients transported by Walkersville Rescue Co. have been billed for several years, and proceeds have been used to purchase equipment, and a portion will go toward construction of a new building. Residents in Walkersville are given an option to join a rescue club, and by paying a nominal annual fee, they don't have to pay the balance not covered by their insurance company.

A rescue club is not being offered in Emmitsburg. Frederick County has been dis cussing a countywide billing system for several years, and the rate structure was recently supported by the county's volunteer fire and rescue association. All volunteer companies would receive 100 percent of the money generated from billing, while those with part time career people would get 75 percent, and the county, 25 percent. Departments with 24 hour career personnel would receive 25 percent, and the county, 75 percent. Mr. Thompson, the liaison to the county fire and rescue association, said he sees the program as a user fee. "I'd be tickled pink if they would all do it," he said.