Ground Ambulance Organizations Responsibly Protecting Patients on the Frontlines
By Kathy Lester, J.D., M.P.H
Ground ambulance services and the organizations who provide them play a critically important role in helping America combat the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic. The members of the American Ambulance Association (AAA) are on the frontlines and often the first health care providers to interact with patients who suspect they are infected with the virus. At the same time, ground ambulance EMTs and paramedics continue to care for patients who have other medical emergency and are now frightened about seeking health care outside their homes.
The Medicare program has recognized these new realities and has provided important flexibility during the public health emergency that eliminate barriers to providing the necessary care. For example, Medicare has expanded the destinations where ground ambulance can transport patients and suspended some paperwork requirements (such as the signature requirements on the PCS form) and audits during the public health emergency. The AAA supports these modifications and has recommended two others: (1) that patients who require medical isolation can get to/from essential medical appointments; and (2) that Medicare pays for ground ambulance health care services provided without transportation to assist in reducing hospital surge and allow patients to remain quarantined in their homes when necessary.
With the additional flexibility provided by Medicare comes additional responsibility. As America’s health care safety net providers, ground ambulance service organizations are also committed to protect against fraud and abuse in the health care system. Our members are equally committed to providing services in an ethical and responsible manner. We recognize that oversight has diminished to ensure that patients get the right care at the right place at the right time. The AAA encourages all of our members and others in the health care community to use their best judgment and rely upon the relaxed guidance only when necessary. These guidance documents are not an opportunity to justify fraudulent or abusive behaviors.