Letter to VA Reimbursement of Ambulance Services

The AAA has sent a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough asking him to delay the implementation of a final rule that would allow the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to reimburse at the lower of billable charges or Medicare rates for certain non-contracted ambulance services. The proposed rule was issued back in 2020 but we understand that the VA could now issue the final rule in January 2023. GMR has been advocating on Capitol Hill for a delay in air and ground ambulance services. The AAA will be issuing later today a request for AAA members to reach out to the VA to also request the delay.

 

December 12, 2022

The Honorable Denis McDonough
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20420

Dear Secretary McDonough,

The American Ambulance Association (AAA) respectfully requests that the Department delay release and implementation of the final rule on the “Change in Rates VA Pays for Special Modes of Transportation (RIN 2900-AP89).” Reimbursing for services to veterans at Medicare rates would have dire consequences for the ability of ground ambulance service organizations to provide lifesaving 9-1-1 emergency and also interfacility ambulance services not only to veterans but entire communities. We ask that the Department delay the rule until after Congress has had an opportunity to act on the results from the Medicare ambulance data collection system which is currently underway.

As documented by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2007 and 2012, the Medicare program reimburses ground ambulance service organizations below the cost of providing their services when temporary add-ons are not considered. Since 2012, the disparity between the cost of providing ambulance services and reimbursement by Medicare has only increased through sequestration cuts, a reduction in inflation updates, and other Medicare payment policy changes. Ground ambulance service organizations are already facing difficult financial straits and cannot
sustain a reduction in reimbursement from another federal payor.

Ground ambulance service organizations serve as the foundation for emergency medical response for veterans and communities throughout the country. Our members are a vital component of our local and national health care and 9-1-1 emergency response systems and serve as lifelines of medical care for many rural and underserved communities. However, our ability to continue to serve communities is already at risk due to inadequate reimbursement and access to care for veterans would be further jeopardized if the Department were to reimburse at lower levels for ground ambulance services.

The AAA is the primary association for ground ambulance service organizations, including governmental entities, volunteer services, private for-profit, private not-for-profit, and hospital-based ambulance services. Our members provide emergency and non-emergency medical transportation services to more than 75 percent of the U.S. population. AAA members serve
patients in all 50 states and provide services in urban, rural, and super-rural areas.

Again, we request that you delay the release and implementation of the final rule on the “Change in Rates VA Pays for Special Modes of Transportation”.

If you have any questions regarding our request, please do not hesitate to have a member of your staff contact AAA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tristan North. Tristan can be reached by phone at (202) 802-9025 or email at tnorth@ambulance.org.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Sincerely,

/AAA - AmerAmbAssoc Team Folder/Signatures/Baird, Shawn Signature.png
Shawn Baird
President

Global Medical Response (GMR), Government Accountability Office (GAO), Medicare, reimbursement

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