Check out this great update from Alex Meixner, Government Relations Director, on what's happening in Springfield.
All – a quick note from Springfield, where the Illinois Legislature’s annual two-week fall Veto Session has just wrapped up. It’s been a productive couple of weeks for us, especially regarding our efforts to improve emergency care for heart attack and stroke patients throughout the state.
- First, the legislature gave final approval to House Bill 2778, a bill we’ve been working on with our partners in the Illinois EMS Alliance. HB 2778 was introduced last spring with the goal of helping the men and women of Illinois’ Emergency Medical Services help us by ensuring that they could bring all of their training to bear in saving a life. Specifically, HB 2778 would allow EMTs licensed at Intermediate or Advanced levels to perform Intermediate or Advanced licensure-level procedures regardless of which ambulance they happen to be in. As things stand today, if an Advanced-level EMT happens to be riding in a Basic-level ambulance, he or she is not allowed to perform Advanced-level procedures, despite the fact that he or she has the requisite Advanced-level training and EMT licensure. In short, HB 2778 would give local EMS agencies more flexibility in making best use of the personnel and equipment they have available. HB 2778 is now on its way to the Governor for signature.
- Second, the legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules approved a final set of Administrative Rules which will govern the implementation of the 2009 Primary Stroke Center Law, and has moved a draft rule increasing the Medicaid reimbursement rate for EMS transport one step closer to final approval. The soon-to-be-published stroke rules will guide Illinois’ 11 EMS regions as they create regional stroke care protocols aiming to improve patient outcomes and increase efficiency. The hopefully-soon-to-be-approved EMS reimbursement rules will provide Illinois’ cash-starved EMS providers with roughly $7 million additional annual state dollars, which will in turn be matched by $7 million annual federal dollars. Many EMS agencies, especially those servicing poor and rural areas of the state, have been losing money on every EMS run in recent years thanks to a reimbursement rate that is lower today in real dollars (not even in inflation adjusted dollars) than it was 10 years ago. This important step in the right direction won’t be enough to ultimately fix the underfunding problem for EMS, but it will make a real difference for providers operating at the edge of insolvency today.
- Finally, the Illinois EMS Alliance, founded and let by members of AHA’s Illinois Advocacy Committee, met again to finalize its bylaws and discuss its agenda for 2014. The creation of the Alliance, which includes major EMS stakeholders such as the main IL firefighter union, the IL Hospital Association, and an association representing the private ambulance industry, along with the AHA amongst others, has been a major development in Illinois’ EMS community over the last year. While building a strong and diverse coalition is never easy, it is often the only way to generate the political muscle necessary to pass crucial policy priorities in Springfield.
Looking forward to a busy 2014 legislative session beginning in late January!