Look out, Washington, here comes EMS. Paramedics and EMTs from across the country are going to the hill for the third time to talk to members of Congress about what's important to the EMS community and their patients.
There’s only so much that can be done on the local and state levels. Federal funding and guidance is needed in some areas. And that's why we're seeing the third EMS on the Hill Day, hosted by the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT).
Legislators have to hear from their constituents if there’s any chance of them understanding what's going on outside of Washington. EMS providers go to talk to their representatives and senators about what they see as a non-partisan issue: providing quality care to their patients.
NAEMT President Connie Meyer, EMT-P, EMS captain for Johnson County Med-Act in Olathe, Kan., is excited about this year's EMS on the Hill Day. She says they expect 190–200 EMS personnel to attend—up from 145 in 2011. Something new this year is a partnership with the American Ambulance Association (AAA). AAA participation will replace their regular lobby day.
EMS on the Hill Day attendees are invited to participate in AAA's Reimbursement Task Force meeting on Tuesday afternoon, March 20, for discussions on reimbursement issues, healthcare reform, Medicare ambulance relief and other emergent topics.
Tuesday evening will include a pre-visit briefing with the opportunity for attendees to mingle and see old friends or network with new contacts.
Wednesday morning, the visits to Congressional offices begin. Armed with their talking points (more on that below), EMS professionals will meet with their representatives and senators or staffs. The meetings not only give EMS personnel the chance to speak of legislature issues that touch them professionally and personally, but also allow the legislators the opportunity to learn more about EMS. During a previous visit, one staffer asked, “So you're not a fire man?”
And the knowledge exchange has already led to an event that Meyer characterized as “huge.” What she's referring to is a request from a federal legislator for NAEMT input on a bill being written. An elected official in Washington came to NAEMT for advice.
While visiting the Congressional offices, attendees have talking points, supplied by NAEMT. This year's issues include the following:
- The Medicare Ambulance Access Preservation Act of 2011 to provide for a more permanent solution to below-cost Medicare ambulance reimbursement;
- The extension of death and other benefits under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program to non-profit, nongovernmental paramedics and EMTs who die or are severely injured in the line of duty; and
- The legislation to establish new EMS grant programs; enhance research initiatives; and promote high-quality, innovative and cost-effective field EMS.
To assist active members in attending EMS on the Hill Day, NAEMT awards grants of up to $1,200 each to four active members.
One of the grant recipients is Jason Scheiderer, EMT-P, of Indianapolis, Ind. He’s employed by Indianapolis EMS and teaches paramedic courses at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. Scheiderer has advocated for local issues, walking the fine line between concerned taxpayer and public employee. NAEMT's state advocacy coordinator for Indiana, Scheiderer appreciates NAEMT's focus on improving EMS on a grand scale. “Not getting into local issues like fire department vs. private EMS providers,” he says.
W. Mike McMichael III, EMT-B and 2011 NAEMT grant recipient from Delaware returns to Washington for the 2012 event. McMichael says, “I'm tickled to death to be involved” in this endeavor that “will help everyone in the country.” Although he personally knows his representative and Delaware's two senators, he likes the opportunity to see them working.
On May 4, 2011, in Washington, D.C., 145 EMS professionals from 39 states and the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico met with more than 217 U.S. Senators, House Representatives and their congressional staff at the second annual EMS on the Hill Day.
The fourth EMS on the Hill Day is tentatively scheduled for the first week in March 2013. That would coincide with 2013 EMS Today, so you could attend both on one plane ticket.
Mark your calendar and watch the NAEMT site for more details in the months to come.