A Bill To Rebuild The EMS Community

By Stan Vashovsky, Ambulnz CEO

EMS, who's responsible and what's being done to help the EMS community?

I recently had dinner with some peers in the EMS community. Somehow our discussion went from work to spouses to kids to school to politics. Unfortunately, that’s where the conversation stopped and the debate began. I won’t use names, but here was a snippet of that heated discussion. This is not verbatim, I don’t usually record dinner conversations... 

J: “…Republicans could care less about protecting health care or our community.”

T: “Please, Republicans have saved health care. You are just spitting out campaign slogans.”

J: “It’s not a slogan, it’s a concern. It’s a real issue. Our industry is under funded and under attack thanks to the government.”

T:  “Under attack? The government passed a bill to rebuild our industry, to protect our jobs. The only attack is from the “Left,” trying to undermine this administration.”

ME:  “Wait, what bill? I haven’t heard of any bill.”

T:  “Look it up. Republicans passed a bill to help patients in rural communities receive better health care. And this bill will help rebuild our industry.”

J: “There is no bill. But let’s say there was a bill to help patients or rebuild our industry, I’d like to know what this bill has in it. Because, I’m sure it’s not good for the American people at the end of the day.”

After a quick handshake and encouragement from the rest of us at the table to put politics aside until the next dinner, I decided to do some digging into this bill. Why had I not heard about this bill? Nobody at the station mentioned anything about it. I didn’t see any news programs or articles.

Here’s what I found…

“The American Hospital Association’s Task Force on Ensuring Access in Vulnerable Communities issued a report in 2016, recommending Congress establish new models of care to provide communities options to protect and stabilize access to health care services. The Rural Emergency Medical Center (REMC) Act of 2018 would create a new designation under the Medicare program allowing hospitals meeting certain criteria to transition to a 24/7 emergency medical center with enhanced reimbursement and transportation to higher acuity facilities, as needed.”

T was right. There was a bill to help patients in rural communities. However, this was not only the work of Republicans. This was a bi-partisan bill introduced by Reps. Lynn Jenkins (R-KS), Ron Kind (D-WI) and Terri Sewell (D-AL). And, to J’s point, this bill is not technically a bill. It’s in the first stage of the legislative process. It was introduced into Congress on May 7, 2018. It will typically be considered by committee next before it is possibly sent on to the House or Senate as a whole. 

So, putting the politics aside, and proving both sides were right, what does this ACT do for our industry? How do we benefit from this bill, if it is passed?

Here is some insight that may help answer these questions,

“Regulatory burdens and remote locations, among many other factors, have all been challenges of hospitals in small rural towns. In the past Congress created special rural payment programs and designations to help account for these challenges, however many have either expired or not kept pace with changes in rural communities or health care delivery. For example, many services that used to require inpatient care are now provided in the outpatient setting; yet federal payment continues to incentivize inpatient, fee-for-service care. 1 

Personally, I am happy to see more bi-partisan legislation for healthcare reform, and more specifically, the EMS community. I feel our industry must continue to push reform both on a state and federal level. A little more oversight, or regulation, could help protect our industry. That said, we should receive more funding from the state and/or federal government to provide better services. As of now, in most states, there is nothing “mandatory” about EMS. But, when nothing is mandatory it seems nothing gets improved, or worse, nothing gets done.

What are your thoughts?

1 https://lynnjenkins.house.gov/press-releases/jenkins-introduces-legislation-aimed-at-assisting-rural-hospitals/