The Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Task Force held its next-to-last meeting on Tuesday to discuss potential ways of improving ambulance services in cities across Kentucky. The group developed recommendations and findings and presented them to stakeholders for feedback and revision. The task force will release updated recommendations before its final meeting later this month.
House Bill 777, a KLC initiative legislators passed in the 2022 Regular Session, established the task force to review challenges, statutes, and regulations governing EMS, as well as training and recruitment concerns. The eight-member task force first met in July and held six more meetings throughout the interim.
The task force presented the following findings on Tuesday:
- The process and criteria for a certificate of need (CON) may reduce competition, limit access to services, and affect the quality of those services.
- Further expansion of the methods and amounts of reimbursements for EMS could improve services.
- Vehicle specifications for EMS providers in rural areas may differ substantially from those in urban areas. Current regulations do not provide adequate flexibility.
- Better collection and analysis of data could improve services. Possible improvements include response times, service quality, and recruitment and retention of personnel.
- The state needs more training sites and qualified trainers, particularly in eastern and western Kentucky.
- EMS providers currently experience shortages and maldistribution of EMS personnel throughout the certification and licensure process.
- Behavioral health hospitals indicated obstacles to the appropriate transportation of people with behavioral health needs related to mental illness, substance abuse disorders, or both.
The task force presented more than 30 recommendations, including:
- Amend statutory language related to the burden of proof and override the general administrative rule for CON applications for ambulance services.
- Amend statutes to require data sharing between the Kentucky Board of Emergency Medical Services (KBEMS), the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services (CHFS) to evaluate the quality and quantity of ambulance services. The OIG could use the data when considering CON applications.
- Enact legislation to identify EMS as an essential service similar to law enforcement. Such legislation could increase funding sources and reimbursement amounts for ambulance services.
- Direct the CHFS to explore Medicaid reimbursement for treatment in place when transporting individuals to a destination other than a hospital in a non-life-threatening emergency.
- Encourage local governments to consider the advantages of fire-based EMS ambulance systems.
- Examine the possibility of requiring insurers to include all EMS as in-network to avoid surprise medical bills for patients.
- Enact legislation requiring KBEMS to lower the minimum age for entry-level emergency medical technicians to 16 or 17 years from 18.
- Encourage schools to cooperate with KBEMS and the Kentucky Technical College System to increase the number of EMS career pathway programs for high school students.
- Require EMS providers to receive education and training on transporting people with mental health illnesses or substance use disorders.
The EMS Task Force’s final meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 15, at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol Annex.