While I've been involved in political lobbying events at the State level before, I've never done anything at the Federal level. This event was VERY well orchestrated, and went very smoothly.
Arriving the evening before the activism day, we met in a meeting room at the host hotel and went over the 3 main issues we were discussing.
Issue #1 was the expansion of the current PSOB (Public Safety Officer's benefit) death benefit to include EMS providers from third-service non-profit agencies. Currently Firefighters, EMS Providers, and Police Officers employed by a municipal, state, or federal government agency are covered by the PSOB death benefit. House Bill 1668, the Danny McIntosh Emergency Medical Service Providers Protection Act (http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/D?d112:2:./temp/~bdfldE::), sponsored by Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick from Bucks County, PA.
HB 1668 bears the name of Daniel McIntosh, a Paramedic from Bucks County who died in the line of duty last year on a call in Bucks County. Because he was working for a non-profit community EMS agency, he didn't qualify for the PSOB funds. Rep. Fitzpatrick's bill aims to close that loophole and give more emergency medical providers that coverage.
We also discussed the Medicare Ambulance Access Preservation Act with our elected representatives, pushing for a mild increase in Medicare reimbursement. In these trying economic times, EMS agencies large and small rely on Medicare reimbursement more and more. For us in Pennsylvania, faced with loosing the Emergency Medical Services Operating Fund from the state... we need to be able to make up that money somehow. The Government Accounting Office (GAO) has acknowledged that EMS is reimbursed below cost by Medicare. This act would increase EMS reimbursement for 5 years, hopefully giving the Government time to actually fix the Medicare reimbursement model to something MORE than just a transport model... we might actually get paid for the care we provide... not just as a transport service.
Finally, we were asking for an expansion of the currently approved 700mhz radio spectrum for Emergency Services to a 20mzh bandwidth with the addition of the D-Block 700mhz airspace. This will allow a national build-out of a broadband data network for Emergency Services across the US. Getting us off of aircards and national cell networks, and letting us have our own network where we can't interfere with other services. The downside to this is that the D-block airspace could go for 2.75 Billion at auction to a cell phone service. That's “real money” as the government attempts to balance the budget.
At the end of the day, we met back at the hotel for a reception where we got to compare notes and discuss our good and bad encounters. Then it was dinner with the EMS 2.0 crowd... that was a fun time.
I spent the next day touring DC – seeing the Capitol Visitor's center, and walking around the city on my own. Then I drove home. I really enjoyed the event... it was great seeing my good EMS 2.0 friends from Twitter: @MsParamedic, @Medic61, @WmRandomWard, @MedicSBK, and @TheHappyMedic. Further, I have applied for the NAEMT's new State Advocacy coordinator position... Looking to see where this goes from here.
The EMS 2.0 Bloggers present:
Anyway – It was a blast. Now I need to find an excuse to see them all again at EMS Expo in Vegas.