The Alabama House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday clarifying that under Alabama law emergency medical services (EMS) are essential medical services.

Senate Bill 183 (SB183) is sponsored by Senate Rules Chairman James “Jabo” Waggoner (R-Vestavia).

The legislation was carried in the House of Representatives by State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville) who is the sponsor of the House version, House Bill 190 (HB190).

“This recognizes EMS as essential emergency services under Alabama law,” Oliver said.

On Wednesday, Oliver was presenting his version of the bill, HB190, to the Senate Health Committee.

“In the last two weeks, two EMS services, Smith's Station and Livingston have closed because they can't find funding,” Oliver said. “…EMS is in a crisis. In the last two weeks, two have closed down. Alabama does not currently recognize EMS as an emergency service. There is not a funding mechanism for them.”

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The Health Committee is chaired by Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville).

“HB190 is the same as SB183 that Sen Waggoner had,” McClendon said.

Sen. Larry Stutts (R-Sheffield) asked, “Who decides if it is an emergency and not just a convenience?”

“The federal government,” Oliver answered.

“I see patients all the time using ambulances when it is not medically necessary,” Stutts, a practicing obstetrician in Northwest Alabama said. “What I am wondering is about the greater cost.”

“Anything we can do to help those ambulance operators helps the state,” Oliver said. “They respond whenever they get the call.”

Stutts gave the example of pregnant women who think their water has broken so call an ambulance to take them to the hospital, but when they get there, their water hasn’t broken and then they go home in a private car, a scenario he says is frequent in his practice.

“I think transportation for a non-emergency call is a personal expense,” Stutts said. “Will they be billing Medicaid?”

Eric Finley is the President of the Alabama Ambulance Association.

“No, it would not,” Finley told the committee.

“The source of this is all federal?” McClendon asked. “Is this costing Alabama taxpayers anything?”

Oliver said, “No.”

Finley said, “Eleven other states have done this.”

“We had 15 ambulances standing by in the city of Fultondale a couple of months ago,” while rescue and recovery efforts were underway following the tornado touchdown there Finley said. “This would allow us to recoup some of that cost.”

The Senate Health Committee gave HB190 a favorable report on Wednesday.

The House of Representatives gave SB183 passage on a 102 to zero vote. It has already passed the Senate and now goes to the governor.

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