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Bill relaxes licensing rules for veteran first responders

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(The Center Square) — Pennsylvanians serving in the military may soon see their credentials as first responders preserved while deployed.

House Bill 404, introduced by Rep. Dane Watro, R-Hazleton, would expand the commonwealth’s policy of using military experience to fulfill licensing and certification rules for EMTs. The bill would exempt those serving from continuing education or in-service training requirements.

Act 23 of 2015 instructed a number of state agencies to do so, but did not include the Department of Health, which certifies EMTs and paramedics.

Watro said many veterans serve as combat medics, so adding the department to the list will remove duplicative training and education hurdles, and “assist their transition to civilian life.”

The change could also potentially prevent someone deployed from forfeiting their license to work as a first responder.

The bill passed the House unanimously in June and has had two considerations in the Senate and awaits a final vote.

EMS services across Pennsylvania have struggled to maintain their current workers and recruit new ones, and remain financially stable. Ambulance services often run at a loss, with each trip costing more than the reimbursements they can collect. The General Assembly has moved to increase reimbursement rates, but more work remains to be done.

EMS officials have warned of an “adversarial” state EMS bureau focused more on punishment than unifying a “fractured and weak system.”

EMS crews have also struggled to get buy-in from localities, which use their services but refuse to fund them.

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