It’s not the dedicated federal EMS office so many in our industry want, but a bill working its way through the U.S. Senate would represent at least a partial step in that direction.
The Emergency Medical Services Support Act, introduced in April by Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Russ Feingold (D-WI), successfully emerged from the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee in June. Its next step is to be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor. If passed, the bill (S. 2351) would reshape the Federal Interagency Committee on EMS (FICEMS) as an official federal entity. It is supported by a number of EMS interests, including Advocates for EMS.
The bill would ensure the coordination of EMS activities between federal agencies and ambulance services; help identify EMS needs; and integrate EMS with Homeland Security and other programs. It would require NHTSA to provide necessary administrative support, and would mandate participation by representatives of such agencies and departments as the Office for Domestic Preparedness, the Health Resources and Services Administration, the CDC, the U.S. Fire Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
Supporting legislation for restructuring FICEMS was included in the transportation bill recently passed by the Senate. That legislation, however, did not address the creation of a FICEMS Advisory Committee, which is a key component of the Collins/Feingold effort. And neither component was included in the alternate version of the transportation bill passed by the House of Representatives. At press time, a companion bill to S. 2351 had not been introduced in the House.
FICEMS was established in 2002 as a way for federal agencies to discuss EMS needs and coordinate their efforts to meet them. It was not written into law, however, and thus had no federally defined authority or objectives. While a step toward increased federal oversight, the EMS Support Act would not establish the lead agency advocated by some in EMS. In a recent letter of response to their colleagues supporting the Act, supporters of Project USEMSA (U.S. EMS Administration) maintained that a dedicated EMS administration is a better solution. “If we are to seek a change to improve the EMS system,” they wrote, “let us move to make a permanent change…that will bring all of the roles, responsibilities and funding under one federal administration…The placement of all EMS-related federal functions in a new administration would ensure interoperability [and] cohesion, and ultimately benefit the patient and the provider.”