EMS Blue Ribbon Commission chaired by Sen. Curry issues recommendations
AUGUSTA — Last week, the Blue Ribbon Commission on EMS released its final report to the Legislature, detailing recommendations for improving emergency medical services in Maine. Sen. Chip Curry, D-Belfast, co-chaired the Commission with House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, D-Portland.
“As we reflect on the progress of the first Blue Ribbon Commission, it’s evident that our work to revamp Maine’s EMS system is far from over. While the second Commission’s recommendations offer a clear path forward, we must acknowledge the hurdles that continue to hinder our efforts,” said Sen. Curry. “Providers are yet to see substantial support materialize, with essential grants entangled in bureaucratic red tape. It is imperative that we transition from recognition to action. Our commitment must now focus on overcoming these barriers to ensure that the commendable work of our first responders is met with the support and resources they deserve. As we strive to implement these new recommendations, it is more crucial than ever to rally our legislative colleagues and decisively address these persistent challenges, strengthening Maine’s EMS system and honoring the dedication of those who answer our community’s calls in times of crisis.”
Last session, the Maine Legislature passed LD 1701, which reestablished the Blue Ribbon Commission on EMS so that it could continue to review the EMS system and recommend improvements to address issues, including funding, staffing, training, governance, and more. The Commission was tasked with submitting a report of its findings to the Joint Standing Committee on Criminal Justice and Public Safety. Recommendations from the report include:
- Emergency Legislation for EMS Funding
- Enact emergency legislation to refine the Emergency Medical Services Stabilization and Sustainability Program, specifying requirements for sustainability grants in law.
- Ensure timely and efficient implementation of the Emergency Medical Services Stabilization and Sustainability Program and the Maine Emergency Medical Services Community Grant Program.
- Increased MaineCare Reimbursement and Ambulance Assessment Program
- Increase MaineCare program reimbursement rates for ambulance services, neonatal transport, no-transport calls, and community paramedicine as proposed in LD 1751.
- Implement an ambulance service assessment fee on non-municipal ambulance service providers to maximize federal funding under the MaineCare program.
- Intergovernmental Transfer and Insurance Coverage for Community Paramedicine
- Authorize municipal ambulance service providers to maximize federal funding for reimbursement under the MaineCare program through an intergovernmental transfer program.
- Require health insurance carriers to provide coverage and reimbursement for community paramedicine services in state-regulated health plans.
- Support for Regional Collaborations and Training Cost Reimbursement
- Direct Maine EMS to perform a funding needs analysis for communities engaging in regional collaborative efforts or adopting regional EMS delivery models.
- Establish a reimbursement formula for municipalities to recover training costs for full-time first responders hired by other municipalities within a specified timeframe.
- Enhanced Support and Reorganization of the EMS Board
- Provide Maine EMS with the necessary funding, staffing, and resources for its core functions.
- Support the reorganization of the EMS Board into a strategic oversight body and a separate EMS Licensing Board.
- Improvements to system resilience and sustainability
- Require municipalities to adopt a plan for the delivery of transporting EMS within the municipality.
- Direct Maine EMS to collaborate with Volunteer Maine to explore funding and volunteer management opportunities for EMS providers as well as support recruitment efforts.
- Enact legislation to better support and fund the EMS system to ensure efficient and sustainable delivery of EMS services.
Recognizing the need to keep working on this vital issue, the Commission also recommended establishing a permanent EMS Commission charged with ongoing monitoring and evaluation of the statewide EMS system and providing continuous recommendations for system improvements.