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Update on Ryan White Act

Oct 21, 2008

NAEMT is working in Washington, D.C. to address the absence of protection for EMS practitioners in the current version of the Ryan White Act.

NAEMT has been working with our partners at Advocates for EMS, as well as other organizations including the IAFF, IAFC, the NVFC and the National Association of Government Employees in addressing the absence of protection for EMS practitioners in the current version of the Ryan White Act. 

EMS practitioners are protected by a number of laws and standards of care regarding occupational exposure to communicable diseases. One of those provisions was included in the emergency response provisions of the original Ryan White CARE Act that passed by Congress in 1990 (P.L. 101-381).  Part E, Subpart II, Notification of Possible Exposure to Infectious Diseases (Section 2681-2690) required emergency response employers (i.e. fire departments, police departments, emergency medical services providers) to have a “Designated Officer” (Infection or Exposure Control) to field calls from employees regarding exposures to communicable diseases and obtain the disease status of the source patients in those exposures from the medical facility providing treatment to that patient.

This provision was included in subsequent reauthorizations of the Ryan White CARE Act until the last reauthorization that passed in 2006 (P.L. 109-415).  As a result of that language disappearing, concerns have arisen throughout the country that EMS practitioners will no longer be able to find out whether or not they have been exposed to an infectious disease in a timely manner and be tested and treated outside of the emergency department at a lower cost.  In addition, there are concerns developing among hospitals and health systems that the release of the results of a source-patient test would be a violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Our representatives have been meeting with offices on Capitol Hill asking them to consider reinstating this language.  Congressional staff has been very receptive to reinstating the language; however, as many pieces of legislation are not moving forward due to election year politics, this issue will have to be addressed when the 111th Congress convenes next year.  NAEMT will keep our members informed as this important legislation.