News

Death Benefits Granted for Indiana EMTs and Paramedics, Saving a Life on Vacation, and Ambulance Kickback Scheme

Issue 8 and Volume 40.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence, left, with Wayne Township Fire Department paramedics Shane Hardwick and Ryan Bullard at the signing of Indiana HB 1080, which gives death benefits to EMS workers who die in the line of duty. Photo courtesy Shane Hardwick

EQUAL DEATH BENEFITS

Officials in Indiana recently passed House Bill 1080, which guarantees death benefits to EMS workers who die in the line of duty. The bill sets up a benefit fund that will pay out $150,000 to the grieving family of a fallen EMS professional who died due to illness or injury while carrying out job-related duties.

According to the bill, EMS employees are seven times more likely to die while on the job than other public safety workers. The law proves to the community EMS personnel are involved in a profession that’s as dangerous as police officers and firefighters.

Wayne Township Fire Department paramedic Shane Hardwick, who was on hand to witness Indiana Governor Mike Pence sign the bill into law, said, “EMS has taken a back seat in public safety in many of our communities and this bill has helped us gain some awareness among lawmakers.”

Looking to the future, EMS workers in Indiana have started lobbying to receive other rights already enjoyed by law enforcement and firefighters such as free college tuition for children of EMS professionals who die while on the job.

We give a thumbs up to the state of Indiana for recognizing that EMTs and paramedics deserve to receive the same benefits as police and fire. This decision helps break the myth that EMS personnel don’t put their lives on the line every day while working.

ALWAYS ON DUTY

Working in emergency medicine may feel like you never get a day off, and one doctor and his retired nurse wife can certainly attest to that. Richard Miller, MD, FACS, chief of Vanderbilt University’s trauma division and assistant medical director for LifeFlight, and his wife Karen, from Tennessee, were vacationing on Florida’s Gulf Coast when their daughter noticed a man screaming in the water.

The two rushed to drag the man out of the ocean, but by then he was motionless and didn’t have a pulse.

The man, 55-year-old math teacher Val Schaff, had reportedly gone out to the water on a boogie board when a big wave hit him, sending his body over his head which then hit the sandy seafloor.

When Schaff was taken to shore, he wasn’t breathing and had been unconscious for several minutes. The Millers worked as a team to perform CPR for 10 minutes until a lifeguard arrived with an intubation kit. Schaff regained his pulse and spit up ocean water, but he still was unconscious. Soon after, an ambulance arrived and Schaff was able to receive further treatment at a hospital.

Schaff was initially declared paralyzed, but regained some control of his limbs after he was transferred to a rehabilitation center in Atlanta. He credits the Millers with giving him a second chance at life when he only had minutes left to live.

We give a thumbs up to Richard and Karen Miller for working to save a life even when off the clock. They embody the true calling of a medical professional—to help others live happy, healthy lives.

KICKBACK SCHEME

Five ambulance companies in Southern California will pay more than $11.5 million in a federal settlement for an alleged swapping kickback scheme with local hospitals that happened in 2009.

The defending companies include Pacific Ambulance and Bowers Companies (both of which have been bought by Rural/Metro after the alleged misconduct occurred), Care Ambulance Service, Balboa Ambulance Service and E.R. Ambulances. According to the FBI, in exchange for exclusive rights to Medicare patient referrals, the ambulance companies offered their services to hospitals at a huge discount, sometimes even below cost. The lawsuit claims this led to false transport claims for the Medicare patients.

This directly violates an anti-kickback statue that prohibits such arrangements, which generally waste taxpayer money and drive up the cost of healthcare services.

We give a thumbs down to these firms for their backdoor deals and illegal kickback schemes. These heinous actions give a bad name to ambulance companies and their employees.