A friend and fellow blogger recently posted a blog where he lays the blame at the Trump Administration for the possible sale of AMR due to the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act, AKA “ObamaCare.” While it’s certainly trendy to blame President Trump, Republicans, and Russian hackers for everything (and I blame them for my breakfast tacos being fouled up), I offer a more reasoned analysis that lays the blame right back it should lay — at the feet of the management of Envision Healthcare, AMR’s current parent corporation.
In my opinion, Envision Healthcare and AMR engaged in two critical failures that continue to haunt EMS.
First, we in EMS like whatever is new and trendy. If it’s on the cover of JEMS, a Facebook page, or mentioned by the right “EMS celebrity,” we jump right in. Whatever is the newest trend, we embrace it and go all out with it. Envision/AMR jumped into community paramedicine and spent like drunken sailors on shore leave. AMR spent significant cash on critical care classes for paramedics, partnerships with hospital networks and hiring a significant number of “celebrity” EMS physicians. Yet nobody ever asked the simple question, “Where is the money to pay for community paramedicine coming from?” Apparently, nobody found an answer to that. In other words, EMS spends money like the stereotype someone who just got a tax refund check — they put new flashy rims on a car that barely runs. In all honesty, there’s not even a commonly accepted definition of what constitutes community paramedicine – primarily because community paramedicine programs are designed to meet unmet needs in the local community. In other words, the needs of one community aren’t going to be the same as the next town over. And in keeping with the free market principles of the US economy, if there’s money to be made meeting a need, it’s likely that a business will expand to fill that need. The fact that nobody was in the community paramedicine market should’ve been a big, giant, huge hint — there’s not much money to be made in diverting repeat users of EMS.
Second, like I’ve mentioned before, EMS is ill-informed and poorly engaged in the political process. From the get-go, there was no guarantee that the Affordable Care Act would provide a revenue stream for community paramedicine, much less EMS as a whole. Next, with a Republican takeover of both houses of Congress in 2010, primarily as a response to the enactment of the Affordable Care Act. The fact that Congress controls the purse strings of the Federal government should’ve been a hint to Envision/AMR that the Affordable Care Act was in jeopardy. Yet, aside from seeing pictures of “EMS On The Hill Day” where everyone dresses up in an EMS uniform where they do their best impersonation of Idi Amin, I rarely see EMS involved in the political or regulatory at the Federal level and virtually never at the state level. Healthcare is one of the most regulated business fields out there and to fail to engage, especially effectively, in the political and regulatory process is professional malpractice, if not out-and-out incompetence. Say what you want about a certain large private EMS company based in Louisiana, but those Cajuns have a government affairs team and in-house legal counsel — and those Cajuns were smart enough not to nibble on the “reinventing healthcare” bait that the Affordable Care Act dangled in front of private EMS. They’re also profitable and return the investment to their employee owners. Jokes aside, that’s pretty impressive in any business, much less the EMS business.
Blaming President Trump for the possible sale of AMR is like blaming the dealer at a craps table in Vegas for the bad gambling decisions you made. In conclusion, Envision took a huge gamble based on a poor understanding of the business and regulatory environment that it plays in. And sadly, Envision’s employees are possibly going to be the ones who have to pay for the loss.