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When borrowing ideas from Democrats, first consider the source

By Michael R. Shannon
web posted February 8, 2010

One of my former jobs was group creative director at an ad agency. My largest client was Blue Cross & Blue Shield, the health insurance company. Inside BCBS you could find decision–makers, decision–avoiders, heartless bureaucrats, soft–hearted bureaucrats, dedicated employees and paper shufflers.

But what you could not find was a money tree just ready to be plucked by opportunistic politicians.

Which brings me to the latest revenue–raising idea from the Board of Supervisors in Prince William County, VA where I live. The county is suffering from a revenue shortfall, so the board is looking for new funding sources and plans to start charging county residents for ambulance transport.

This idea is proof that even excellent, and normally reliably conservative governing bodies, can be lead astray by spending too much time in close proximity to Democrats.

In justifying this catheter up the taxpayer wallet, Board Chairman Corey Stewart rationalizes, "Today, taxpayers, you and me, we pay for that [emergency transportation] service, and the only entities that are getting away with anything are the insurance companies."

According to Stewart, the devil–made–them–do–it and it's not the fault of the board. The new billing practice merely brings the county into line with the neighboring jurisdictions of Fairfax County and Arlington, both run by tax–and–spend Democrats.

What policy company the board is now keeping. Northern VA counties run by Democrats tax residents for "affordable housing," lavish money on "human rights" and raised taxes last year, so why is it exactly that we want to be like those counties?

Besides, our ambulance isn't hauling the insurance company, it's transporting the resident; and the he's already paid for the ride in the form of property taxes that cover police protection, fire fighting, schools, libraries, street repair and oh, yes: ambulance rides.

In fact, residents here pay an obscure fire levy each year — in addition to property tax — that goes specifically to fund ambulance rides.

Insurance companies aren't "getting away" with anything when a taxpayer is transported; any more than State Farm "gets away" with not paying for the water when the fire department puts out a house fire.

Insurance companies aren't stupid, even if they can't grow money trees. When the county starts charging for ambulance transport, residents will have the pleasure of paying for the ride three times : first the property tax/fire levy, second the ride itself and third the increase in health insurance rates.

Thank you board of supervisors!

The proposal calls for a base transport fee of $400. If you need specialized services during your trip like defibrillation, a liver transplant or a full–body massage, the charge increases to a current maximum of $700.

And should you be comatose and unable to sign the chit for your ride, EMS will be happy to circle the hospital like a Comanche until a relative with power–of–attorney shows up to authorize the charges.

If the county is going to start gouging like Democrats, shouldn't we start governing like Democrats? What about the poor, can they afford $700? The uninsured? Residents with high deductibles? Will there be a senior citizen discount or will the elderly be forced to wait for one of activity buses they recently demanded be restored to the county budget?

And don't forget our hard–working illegal friends from South of the border! Charging them would be cultural imperialism.

Now I would have no problem charging foreigners like residents of Fairfax, Arlington and Alexandria. We have a tax on car rentals for outsiders, so why not for borrowing an ambulance. And while we're at it, let's include a steep drop–off fee.

If the board plans to go to an a la carte system of billing for county services the sky's the limit. I see a charge for 9–1–1 calls like porn entrepreneurs charge for 900 numbers. Want a police report for your fender–bender? Pony up! Old man slapping you around? Grab the debit card and call the police.

Of course, a la carte should mean I don't have to pay for what I don't use, so I'm eager for the property tax deduction that covers elementary schools, high schools, homeless shelters, fire levy and recreation centers, to name but a few.

Meanwhile, trimming that insurance company money tree will require a tree surgeon, and sure enough — just like Democrats — the board will expand the bureaucracy by adding a fire captain to manage the program, along with the staff he will soon demand.

And the best part is taxpayers will be footing the bill for an addition to this bureaucracy whose sole job will be to assure the BOS that double–billing for ambulance transport is no burden on the taxpayers.

Michael R. Shannon is a public relations and advertising consultant with corporate, government and political experience around the globe. He is a dynamic and entertaining keynote speaker. He wants you to share the machines and can be reached at michael-shannon@comcast.net.






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