It is my pleasure to share with you that—just minutes ago—Congress passed the 5 year extension of the Medicare ambulance add-ons. The extension was part of the two-year budget deal reached by congressional leaders and passed by the Senate early this morning and then shortly thereafter by the House. The ambulance provisions in the final deal differ from the provisions passed earlier this week by the House in one key area – the collection of ambulance cost data. This means that we are truly in the endzone of the add-on payment extension process.
While we ask your continued patience as we jump through one last procedural hoop, I am confident that the add-ons will be back in effect as soon as the President signs the legislation. In today’s deeply divided political climate, I am proud of what we have accomplished through collaboration as an association and industry.
Here are the specifics of the final package:
- 5 year extension of the ambulance Medicare add-ons through December 31, 2022, retroactive to January 1, 2018.
- AAA’s preferred method of Cost data collection that provides flexibility to the Secretary of HHS in developing the system. Consultation with the industry is required so that it strikes the appropriate balance between obtaining meaningful data while not overly burdening or onerously penalizing the ambulance services.
- The penalty for failing to report required data would be a reduction in payment up to 10% for the year following the year in which the data should have been submitted. AAA objected to the house proposed penalty of up to a year of Medicare payments clawback or withholding of payments. A clause is included to wave the penalty in cases of hardship.
- A “pay-for” for the 5-year extension of the add-ons with a 13% cut to non-emergent dialysis transports – the AAA had objected to the offset and pushed for a cut targeted to just those entities which abuse the dialysis transport benefit. We were successful in reducing the initial cut from 22% to 13%. The AAA is actively working on other pay-for options that would replace the 13% cut with something targeting dialysis fraud and abuse.
All that remains to bring the add-ons into effect retroactively to January 1, 2018 are a few administrative formalities and the signature of the President, who has indicated his support of the agreement. Given the government shutdown, we are cautiously optimistic that this will proceed quickly. However, bumps are always a possibility—we will keep you informed! (Follow AAA on Twitter at @amerambassoc or Facebook for instant updates.)
This week’s tremendous progress would not have been possible without months of effort by AAA volunteer leaders, advocacy experts, and staff, as well as support from our key champions in Congress.
I’d like to personally thank the AAA Government Affairs Committee, including Chair Jamie Pafford-Gresham and Vice Chair Shawn Baird, as well as the entire AAA Board for their hundreds of hours of hard work on this issue. We are all truly grateful for your dedication to moving mountains to find sustainable funding for EMS.
Last but certainly not least, thank you to the dozens of state ambulance associations and thousands of individual members who wrote letters to their Members of Congress in support of the add-ons. We truly couldn’t have made it this far without your support.
Again, thank you, and please stay tuned for final updates!
American Ambulance Association
“Representing EMS in America”