The effort is the result of a consensus-driven process that included three summits, numerous drafts and a considerable amount of feedback, says Lisa Tofil, partner in law firm Holland and Knight’s Public Policy and Regulation Group. “While we recognize that not all will agree with every part of the legislation, the bill represents the broadest degree of consensus achievable within the community,” she says in the release.
The bill may be the most comprehensive legislation to address EMS in many years. It recognizes the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as the primary federal agency for EMS and trauma care; establishes an Office of Emergency Medical Services and Trauma within HHS and requires the secretary of HHS to develop a cohesive national EMS strategy to strengthen the development of the full continuum of EMS at all levels.
According to the proposed legislation, this strategy will take into consideration the recommendations of the National EMS Advisory Council (NEMSAC) and relevant stakeholders and, in collaboration with the Federal Interagency Committee on Emergency Medical Services (FICEMS), must address “issues related to EMS patient and practitioner safety, standardization of EMS practitioner licensing and credentialing and integration of field EMS into the broader health care system.”
The bill also clarifies that nothing within the Act will preempt any statutory authority otherwise provided for any federal agency that isn’t within HHS.
The bill will foster improvements in quality, innovation and preparedness and strengthen accountability through the establishment of three grant programs, including:
Field EMS agency grants: To promote excellence in all aspects of field EMS, enhance the quality through evidence-based and medically directed care, promote universal availability of field EMS in all geographic locations of the nation, spur innovation in the delivery of field EMS, and improve EMS agency preparedness for everyday and catastrophic emergency medical response.
State grants: To improve field EMS system performance, integration and accountability, ensure preparedness for field EMS, enhance physician medical oversight of field EMS systems and care, improve coordination between regional field EMS systems and integration into the health care system, enhance data collection and standardization certification of EMTs and paramedics.
Education grants: Provided to EMS educational institutions to ensure the availability, quality and capability of field EMS educators, practitioners and medical directors.
Because few bills requiring funding are being considered, the Field EMS Act was written to avoid adding to the federal deficit. Instead, the Act establishes an EMS Trust Fund that would be financed through voluntary contributions made by taxpayers when filing their federal income tax forms. Programs under the Office of EMS and Trauma would use discretionary funds for start-up funding through the Secretary of HHS.