City in Iowa Rejects Plan to Bill Insurers for Emergency Response

August 9, 2018

Waterloo (Iowa) Fire Rescue’s proposal to bill insurance companies for its emergency response costs has been rejected.

City council members have voted 5-2 against the plan that would seek payments for the city’s manpower and equipment costs when responding to car accidents, fires and other emergency calls, The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier reported.

Councilman Bruce Jacobs said the plan is “just not politically acceptable right now.” He was joined by Sharon Juon, Steve Schmitt, Jerome Amos Jr. and Margaret Klein in rejecting the measure.

“I thought it was a good source of revenue to reduce our budget for public safety,” Jacobs said. “But after talking to many people in my ward, not one person was in favor of it.”

The department’s proposal wouldn’t have billed victims directly and wouldn’t have sought payment when insurance didn’t cover the fees.

But several residents still voiced objections to the plan before the vote, noting that they already pay taxes for public safety services.

Resident Todd Obadal called the plan a “backdoor, off-the-book tax” aiming to make the property tax rate look lower without actually reducing costs.

More than 900 cities in more than 40 states utilize fire recovery fees, said Fire Chief Pat Treloar. He said insurance experts have told him that about 50 percent of insurance policies have some level of coverage for fire rescue response.

“I thought we had support to pass the initiative but I was wrong,” Treloar said. “I respect the decision of the council.”

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