On March 25–26, NAEMT celebrated a
milestone, hosting the fifth annual EMS on the Hill Day in Washington,
Last year a powerful winter storm hampered efforts. This year the
threat of snow didn’t materialize, but strong winds and chilly
temperatures sent nearly 200 EMS professionals from 42 states and the
District of Columbia and Puerto Rico dashing from one building to the
next to keep their scheduled appointments with members of Congress. EMS
practitioners, managers, educators and physicians from a variety of
delivery models attended a record 248 congressional meetings in a single
day. During each meeting they shook hands, posed for photos and
educated congressional leaders and their staff on the Field EMS Quality,
Innovation and Cost-Effectiveness Improvements Act (H.R. 809);
membership in the Congressional EMS Caucus; and the Medical Preparedness
Allowable Use Act (H.R. 1791). The primary push, however, was H.R. 809,
also known as the field EMS bill.
"The best thing is that lots of people knew who we were and
remembered us from last year,” says NAEMT President Don Lundy, NREMT-P.
“I met people who said, ‘I was reviewing your bill.’ That was great!”
The field EMS bill, sponsored in the House by Indiana Rep. Larry
Bucshon with bipartisan support from more than 20 colleagues, addresses a
number of systemic problems identified by the landmark 2006 Institute
of Medicine (IOM) report Emergency Medical Services: At the Crossroads.
Key among those is establishing a primary federal agency for EMS and
trauma. The bill names the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
(HHS) as that lead agency.
Lundy says HHS is the right fit in light of the significant changes in healthcare. “EMS is emergency medical
services,” he says. The bill would not change the statutory authority
of any other agency, such as the Department of Transportation or
Department of Homeland Security, that currently provides oversight for
portions of EMS programs, explains Upper Pine River (CO) Fire Protection
District Chief Bruce Evans, a member of the NAEMT board and chair of
the field bill advocacy committee.
Additionally, the bill would establish new EMS programs, enhance
research initiatives and promote high-quality innovation and
cost-effective field EMS. “This bill is probably the most serious change
in legislation since EMS was created,” Lundy says.
Representatives were asked to cosponsor H.R. 809. On the Senate side,
support was sought for a Democrat to join Idaho’s Sen. Mike Crapo in
introducing the bill to that body.
A clever mechanism is being used to fund the bill. Citizens would be
asked to voluntarily contribute to an EMS trust fund by checking a box
on their tax return. Based on the estimated U.S. population in 2015,
that would generate $321 million if every man, woman and child donated
one dollar. “This bill does not add to the federal deficit,” Lundy says.
“The days are over when you could ask your congressman for a $321
The bill faces opposition from the International Association of
Firefighters (IAFF), which agrees with nearly all of its content but
would rather see Homeland Security serve as the lead federal agency.
“It’s more familiar to them,” says Lisa Tofil, NAEMT lobbyist and
partner at Holland and Knight, LLP. However, she believes that with all
the changes to healthcare, it’s critical that EMS be at the table with
HHS divisions such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Health Resources and
Services Administration and others.
When NAEMT first hosted EMS on the Hill in 2010, the organizers at
NAEMT weren’t sure if anyone would come. “We were praying that 40 people
would show up,” Lundy says. Instead, 120 people attended the inaugural
event. They had 160 appointments.
“We weren’t sure how to take the first
step. We just did,” Lundy says. “This year we have our helmets on. The
men and women who are doing this job are making history. They aren’t
waiting for someone to tell us what to do. They are creating this. It’s
In response to feedback NAEMT received regarding the event, the association also partnered with EMS World
to host a half-day Mobile Integrated Healthcare Summit, attended by
more than 200 professionals. “People wanted not just a day to come and
talk to elected officials, but a day to come and hear the experts in the
field and gain knowledge,” Lundy says. Sessions focused on actionable
information related to sustainable funding and revenue sources, and
methods for measuring success and demonstrating value in MIH programs.