EMS workers discuss legislation with Congress on Capitol Hill

The National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians hosted the fifth annual EMS on the Hill Day on March 25-26 in Washington, D.C., to meet with members of congress to discuss EMS-focused legislation.

EMS practitioners, managers, educators and physicians from 42 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico attended 248 congressional meetings in a single day. They educated government leaders on the Field EMS Quality, Innovation and Cost-Effectiveness Improvements Act (H.R. 809), the Medical Preparedness Allowable Use Act and other legislation.

"The best thing is that lots of people knew who we were and remembered us from last year," NAEMT President Don Lundy said. "I met people who said, 'I was reviewing your bill.' That was great!"

The field EMS bill is sponsored in the House by Rep. Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.) and has bipartisan support. The bill address systemic problems, such as the lack of a primary federal agency for EMS and trauma. The bill requests that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services be that agency.

The bill would not change statutory authority of other agencies, such as the Department of Transportation or the Department of Homeland Security, that provide oversight for some EMS programs.

The bill is expected to create new EMS programs, build research initiatives and promote innovation and cost-effective measures.

"(H.R. 809) is probably the most serious change in legislation since EMS was created," Lundy said.

Funding for the bill comes from voluntary contributions by citizens to an EMS trust fund by checking a donation box when filing their tax return. Lundy said if every man, woman and child donated one dollar, the system would generate $321 million, which would keep the bill from adding to the federal deficit.

The bill is opposed by the International Association of Firefighters, which would rather have Homeland Security serve as the lead federal agency because that agency is more familiar to them, according to NAEMT Lobbyist Lisa Tofil.

Lundy said getting the bill passed will be a difficult process.

"I don't mind taking on a seven-year fight if at the end we have a bill that passes-and I think we will," Lundy said. "Years from now I'll be proud to look back and say I was a part of that."