The BOTTOM LINE that is fast approaching in ALL areas of Outdoor Recreation is the "Pay to Play" norm. A good example is a summer 2011 issue:
"The USFS continues to illegally charge fees to access the public lands that we all own. Many trailheads in our local Wenatchee Okanogan National Forest are out of compliance with federally mandated amenities making them illegal to charge fees at. Given the 2 citations for parking in the forest while hiking, the corrupt system of paying to use public lands will not face court review for us and intimidation continues. Privatization is the ultimate goal, making the forest a corporate pay to use system. Read more here at westernslopenofee.org and you will see it is there."
Now to the subject.....
As you know, NOT all cases of EVACUATION or MEDICAL ASSISTANCE are under the control of the individual and, should be looked at when dollar aspect of the incident is evaluated, as it does costs to staff and run rescue operation facilities even if it is military provided. There is no unified answer to who should or should not be charged AND the costs of these organizations that are helping individuals are expensive and one that the tax payer usually ends up taking the brunt of the cost even if user fees are required.
If you are anxious concerning that "it might happen to me and........" you could cover yourselves in a small amount in times of ANY EVACUATION or MEDICAL ASSISTANCE, by joining the American Alpine Club as a member you would receive $5,000 Global Rescue Trailhead Benefit and a $5,000 Domestic Rescue Insurance Benefit. While this insurance would probably not cover any bill in totality, it is more than nothing, if payment arises and you are a part of that issue.
SKILLS, JUDGMENT & LEADERSHIP are items that will keep people safe and comfortable and accidents can even happen to the best of us that are prepared.