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Gov. Brad Little signs bill into law to help rural EMS with funding

EMS considered  not "essential" under Idaho law
Posted at 4:05 PM, Mar 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-23 18:05:59-04

BOISE, Idaho — Gov. Brad Little signed HB561 into law Monday, helping to free up money in the state's Emergency Medical Services Fund III.

The existing fund only allowed for vehicle and equipment purchases, but the new law opens up what the money can be used for. This law allows funding to be used for training, licensing, communication technology, dispatch services and other costs that does not include personnel salaries.

Related: Report: EMS in Idaho underfunded, rural patients left to feel the impacts

Around 65% of EMS providers in Idaho are volunteer-based. Some of those providers are in a small taxing district they can't get an increase in property taxes before voters, in Idaho a small portion of property taxes help fund EMS, but some of those percentages have not changed in decades. This law allows for those districts to have access to state funds to help.

"There are counties all over this state that have less than 5 thousand dollars a year for their entire emergency medical services program. You can't buy an ambulance with that you can't buy a stretcher; you can't pay staff you can't do anything with that. it's resulting in dangerous response times." said House Minority Leader Ilana Rubel.

Average response times in Idaho
Average response times in Idaho

Related: Impacts of being underfunded, understaffed felt for rural EMS teams

Emergency Medical Services Fund is funded through a small portion of the fee collected when you get your Idaho Driver's license or your vehicle registration.

"I think a lot of us have questions as to whether EMS can be effectively provided on an all-volunteer basis. we don't expect the police to work for no pay, we don't expect doctors to work for no pay and I think it's not realistic to expect trained EMTs and paramedics to work for no pay," Rubel said.

States with Essential EMS

This bill had bipartisan support in both the Idaho House and Senate. Idaho Law does not guarantee Emergency Medical Services as it is not an Essential Government Service. Only eleven states have laws that deem EMS as "essential. "