There were lots of notable aspects to the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law in February, but here's a big one: EMS is in line to receive some of its funds. Thanks to the efforts of the industry's champions on Capitol Hill, language in the bill specifically makes EMS systems eligible for various grants and loans the historic legislation provides.
"Because EMS so often gets lost in the shuffle," says Lisa Meyer of EMS lobbyist Cornerstone Government Affairs, which represents Advocates for EMS and industry interests in Washington, "we made sure it was specifically listed as an eligible entity to receive some of this funding."
That funding includes billions for healthcare-related programs and causes. Among it:
$10 billion to the National Institutes of Health, including $8.2 billion for research;
$2 billion to the Department of Health and Human Services for health information technology;
$1.5 billion for building community health centers;
$1 billion for Community Services block grants; and
$1 billion for a Prevention and Wellness fund within the HHS' Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.
These funds will flow through the states, and that raises the stakes for EMS' involvement in state-level politics.
"EMS, or anyone who's interested in those dollars, is going to have to start working with their governors' offices, their health departments, whatever it is at the state level, to get qualified and write their applications," Meyer says.
The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act incorporated contents of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act. These provisions are intended to promote adoption of health information technology (HIT), including electronic health records and the development of a national health information network by which electronic health information can be stored and exchanged. The HITECH Act provides funds for developing infrastructure and grants to help providers purchase and implement technology. For more information, visit www.advocatesforems.org.
More Good News
In March, Congress finally finished up its appropriations for fiscal '09, funding programs under the departments of Health and Human Services and Transportation, among others.
The CDC's Preventive Health and Health Services block grant, which 16 states use to fund EMS causes, got $102 million, up from $97.3 million in fiscal 2008. Under the Health Resources and Services Administration, smaller increases went to the Traumatic Brain Injury grant program ($1.1 million), EMS for Children ($600,000) and the Rural and Community Access to AEDs program ($300,000).
Under HHS' Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, preparedness and emergency operations received a major increase ($10 million to $35 million), and the National Disaster Medical System got a modest bump ($46 million to $49.5 million). And importantly, under the DOT, Congress set $750,000 aside for the National EMS Information System (NEMSIS).