Kennedy Leads Committee Passage Of Cost-Saving Community Paramedicine Legislation
Bill enables paramedics to provide care when ambulance transportation is not needed
Senator Ted Kennedy, Jr. (D-Branford) led passage of Senate Bill 317 in the General Assembly’s Public Health Committee. This bill, which received unanimous, bipartisan support, establishes a pilot program to allow paramedics to provide the expanded medical care they are trained to administer, rather than being limited to transporting patients to a hospital.
“Paramedics are highly-trained, capable professionals, and we should be allowing them to take advantage of their knowledge and experience when managing patients,” said Senator Kennedy, Vice Chair of the Public Health Committee and a healthcare attorney. “Ambulance rides and emergency room stays are expensive, and create a significant, often unnecessary burden on Connecticut’s Medicaid system. Enabling paramedics to do more than drive a patient to the hospital will save the state money by ensuring that a patient is getting the appropriate care.
“Paramedics are more than capable of providing critical care to people who need help but do not need to be hospitalized, but this state is not letting them do that. Right now, Connecticut’s paramedics are only paid for a call if they transport a patient to the hospital. This creates a clear disincentive to provide immediate assistance in the home, transport the patient to a more appropriate destination, or do anything other than drive the person to an emergency room. In fact, our current laws punish paramedics who do those things by not paying them for anything other than a hospital transport. This bill fixes that.”
Community paramedicine is a new and emerging model of community-based care that allows EMTs and paramedics to operate in expanded roles outside their traditional emergency response and transportation functions. Community paramedics can provide needed primary care services and allow unnecessary overuse of emergency room visits for patients who do not require costly ambulance transportation to an acute care hospital, especially frequent 911 callers living in underserved areas. Recent studies have also shown that these professionals can also perform post-discharge follow-up visits and other health care assessments. Private health insurers are already compensating EMTs for home visits in many parts of the country.
Many fully-staffed EMT services in our state are underutilized and have frequent time gaps in between emergency calls. At the same time, many patients do not need to travel to the hospital to receive needed care. With the costs of healthcare rising dramatically, and recognizing the huge sums that Connecticut’s Medicaid plan pays for unnecessary ambulance transport, Kennedy and other have worked to adopt the community paramedicine model.
Senate Bill 317 would allow paramedics to transport patients to a more appropriate destination if they determine that a hospital emergency room is not necessary. It also allows paramedics to provide short-term follow-up home visits for people who have been recently discharged from the hospital. Finally, it allows paramedics to be paid for providing limited home care, such as help with medication plans, or assistance moving around the home and accessing social services.
Now that Senate Bill 317 has passed out of the Public Health Committee, it moves to the floor of the Senate for further consideration.