EMS Caucus Convenes on Capitol Hill
EMS advocates gathered this morning on Capitol Hill at the first meeting of the Congressional EMS Caucus. Chaired by Rep. Timothy Walz of Minnesota, the EMS Caucus convened a variety of EMS advocates hailing from an alphabet soup of agencies, associations and groups: the National Association of EMTs (NAEMT), American College of Surgeons (ACS), National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), American Ambulance Association (AAA), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), among others.
Walz opened the meeting by explaining the purpose of the EMS Caucus and highlighting the importance of its role in the promotion of and education about federal policy issues that impact EMS.
“We need partnerships, resources, and coordination to move EMS forward and support the industry,” Walz said. “EMS deserves the right tools, the right training, and the ability to recruit and retain—this is the reality of EMS.”
Other congressional staff in attendance included Betsey Coulbourn from the office of Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware and Lisa Grabert, professional staff with the House of Representatives’ Committee on Ways and Means.
The EMS Caucus, with Grabert’s help, has been working diligently to ensure the passage of two important bills. H.R. 304/S. 916, the Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act (the so-called “DEA bill”), ensures access to emergency medications for patients under the care of EMS. This bill codifies the use of standing orders, giving EMS the ability to administer controlled substances without delaying care by having to call a physician for orders during an emergency. This bill is on its way to the House of Representatives for a final vote and is expected to be signed by the president later this month.
Another bill in the works, H.R. 3729, the Comprehensive Operations, Sustainability, and Transport Act of 2017, would deliver a five-year extension for payments to ambulance service providers in both urban and rural areas. These payments are due to expire on December 31, 2017, which would produce a payment cut of more than 10% to ambulance providers in some rural areas where they are the only provider of emergency medical services.
NAEMT President Dennis Rowe emphasized the importance of improving patient care. Rowe gave a brief history of the 50-plus years of the EMS profession and noted that much remains unchanged among the issues facing the industry.
“Physician involvement with EMS, the need for partnerships with all healthcare providers, and the emphasis on prevention were all brought up when the National Academy of Sciences produced its EMS white paper in 1966,” Rowe said. Key partnerships and a unified vision of EMS’ role in patient care are needed to continue the excellence of EMS nationwide, he said.
NAEMT President-Elect Matt Zavadsky illustrated the evolving role of EMS in the healthcare space through initiatives such as mobile integrated healthcare and community paramedicine (MIH-CP).
“EMS is being incentivized by payers to spend payer dollars by transporting patients, but it is sometimes to inappropriate destinations,” he said. “With MIH-CP, EMS is showing it can reach out early to patients to prevent illness and injury by navigating them to a more appropriate point of care. This saves costs and improves outcomes.”
Walz recognized the great responsibility the American public places on EMS providers.
“It’s not good enough to just say ‘thank you’ when you’ve been there after a hurricane or shooting or disaster,” he said. “People expect EMS to accomplish extraordinary things every day.”
Hilary Gates, MAEd, NRP, is program director for EMS World Expo. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.