Our View: ‘Long, arduous task’

Posted: March 29, 2013

It is perhaps fitting that the seemingly endless process of crafting a fee-for-service program suitable to Frederick County’s elected officials andits fire and rescue companies ended not with another extended discussion of the proposal’s pros and cons, but with a simple roll call vote.

After all, as Board of Supervisors Chairman Dick Shickle told us after his panel had unanimously approved the agreement, no more talking was necessary. All that needed to be said had already been said — over roughly six years of oft-intense negotiations.

Small wonder then that Tim Price, president of the Frederick County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association, called the process that finally resulted in the supervisors’ vote a “long, arduous task.” Just how “arduous” was hardly lost on the board. During Wednesday’s meeting, Gene Fisher, Shawnee District supervisor, extolled the “hard work” that went into producing the agreement, or memorandum of understanding, further noting the resolve of “all the people who stayed at the table.”

That was largely the work of the fire-and-rescue folks, particularly Mr. Price who, as he informed us Thursday, first appointed an association subcommittee that voted to undertake a rigorous “investigation” of such program, and then a full committee of 22 members — two from each fire company — charged with deciding whether fee-for-service was in the county’s best interest.

“It was an open dialogue and discussion about the benefits and the unintended consequences (of fee-for-service),” Mr. Price said.

The companies voted 10-1 — Reynolds Store dissenting — to pursue such a program and then sent their recommendation on to the supervisors.

Boiled to its essence, the agreement approved by the board allows a fee to be charged patients’ health insurance — or Medicare or Medcaid — should they be transported for treatment by emergency services personnel. No fee will be assessed if a patient has no health-care provider, and no out-of-pocket expenses will be incurred.

“You’ve got to start somewhere,” mused Gary Lofton, Back Creek District supervisor, who also praised the fire companies’ diligence and determination. “And now we’re finally going to start.”

Chester Lauck, the Round Hill fire chief who chaired the association’s study committee, came to a similar conclusion, one punctuated by what seemed to be abject relief.

“This is a big hurdle,” Mr. Lauck said of the board vote, “I’m glad to be over this one. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but all the hard work’s behind us.”