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Reps. Axne, Larson, Westerman Unveil Fair Reimbursement Legislation for First Responders

Mar 06, 2021

Bipartisan bill would revise reimbursement rates for treatment provided at the location of a medical emergency

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Cindy Axne (IA-03), Rep. John Larson (CT-01) and Rep. Bruce Westerman (AR-04) announced they are introducing bipartisan legislation to provide fair reimbursements for firefighters, emergency medical services (EMS), and other medical first responders.

Currently, Medicare reimbursements are not provided to firefighters and medical first responders for supplies and services they provide if they treat someone on location, known as treatment in place. Reimbursements for these services are approved only when a patient is transferred to a hospital.

The Treatment in Place Act directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reimburse ambulance providers for care delivered to beneficiaries when the patient is treated in place, providing vital funding to ground ambulance organizations. This will also eliminate the need to bring non-emergency patients into hospitals during COVID-19 for care, reducing COVID-19 exposure and demand on emergency professionals.

“Our fire departments and EMS first responders have been on the front lines, responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency. Our first responders are highly trained professionals, able to respond to a lot of the medical situations they face right there on location. By offering reimbursements for medical supplies and their treatment, we can avoid having to send people to the hospital unnecessarily during this pandemic,” said Rep. Axne. “Just as our firefighters and EMTs are here for us, we need to ensure federal health agencies are here for them. CMS reimbursements should still be available for those who are helping our citizens – especially with looming budget shortfalls at our state and municipal levels.”

“Our first responders have been on the forefront of this pandemic and are out on the frontlines daily caring for our communities. This legislation will ensure our first responders can be reimbursed by Medicare for the treatments they provide in place,” said Rep. Larson. “This is essential as many of municipalities have been forced to bear the financial brunt of this pandemic, while trying to keep people safe. I’m proud to join Reps. Axne and Westerman in introducing this legislation today.”

“Our ambulance, EMS, and firefighter first responders have served our country with perseverance and dedication during the COVID-19 pandemic, adapting quickly as hospitals were stretched to their limits,” said Rep. Westerman. “These first responders have been vital to our nationwide effort to fight the Coronavirus by treating individuals where they are and mitigating the spread of the virus. I am proud to co-lead the Treatment in Place Act to ensure that first responders are compensated fairly for their hard work and service on the front lines.

Because of high demand for hospital beds during COVID-19, many ambulance providers have been directed to care for patients in settings other than emergency rooms—whether at patients’ homes or in health care facilities.

The bipartisan bill is endorsed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), National Association of EMTs, National Volunteer Fire Council, American Ambulance Association, and Congressional Fire Services Institute (CFSI).

"The IAFC applauds Representative Axne for developing a reimbursement mechanism for fire departments that treat patients on scene and without transporting them to a hospital. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted Medicare's limitations with regards to reimbursement policies and that they do not recognize the high-quality care that firefighters and other EMS practitioners provide for their patients. Fire departments should not be adversely affected for patients' fears of visiting a hospital or local protocols that prohibit transporting low acuity patients. This legislation is a common-sense solution that provides fire departments with the funding needed to care for ill and injured patients in their communities. The IAFC urges Congress to pass this bill as soon as possible," said Chief Ken Stuebing, Acting IAFC President and Chairman of the Board.