3 key goals of EMS on the Hill Day 2013

Moving through the halls of Congress, one gets a sense on how competitive EMS needs to be

It's critical that EMS continues to self-advocate for its future — no one else will. This is how EMS on the Hill Day was born.

The grassroots initiative to advocate for field care at the federal congressional level is now its fourth year, and the 2013 event took place in DC earlier this week.

Sponsored by NAEMT and other organizations, the event recruits EMS professionals from across the United States to spend a few minutes with congressional leaders and their staff to cover key aspects of out of hospital field — and I was fortunate enough to participate.

For EMS on the Hill Day 2013, the following key requests were addressed:

1. Asking congressional leaders to support and cosponsor H.R. Bill 809, Field EMS Quality, Innovation, and Cost-Effectiveness Improvements Act. Sponsored by House Representative Larry Buchon of Indiana, the bill seeks to strengthen EMS leadership at the federal level, provide support for research and demonstration projects, and generally support EMS in ways that have been a challenge. 

2. Asking congressional leaders to join the EMS caucus, chaired by house representative Tim Walz of Minnesota.

3. Asking congressional leaders to support HR 235, the Veteran Emergency Medical Technician Support Act of 2013 that was recently approved by the House. This bill streamlines the process in which returning veterans with medical training can enter the civilian workforce.

Mother Nature did not cooperate this year. After a winter of very little precipitation, a fierce snowstorm swept through the nation's capital during the event.

The federal government was officially shut down, along with many other businesses, schools and stores. Several attendees did not make it to Washington, with flights across the country cancelled or delayed.

With many visits on "the hill" scrapped, NAEMT staff scrambled to formulate plan B so that those who were able to make it in before the storm were able to salvage the day.

Several speakers provided highly educational and informative presentations about the issues facing EMS in the new paradigm known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), informally known as Obamacare, which we can read more about in the sidebar in this article.

It turned out that at least a few of the congressional offices were open and taking meetings, resulting in a mad scramble to make appointments.

Fortunately seasoned EMS professionals are masters of chaos and were able to make adjustments on the fly. A typical advocacy meeting is short, 15 to 20 minutes total. Sometimes the representative is available, but most of the time the meeting is held with a staffer, who carries the information back to the congressional member.

Therefore, any information that needs to be provided must be succinct and "on message,” much like a patient radio report.

Moving through the halls of Congress, one gets a sense on how competitive EMS needs to be in getting its message across. Many other groups had their advocates meeting and greeting their congressional leaders, despite the bad weather.

But at least we can be happy that EMS for one has had its say.

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