Congressman Greg Walden

Recent Victories and 2019 Priorities

The American Ambulance Association has worked diligently to achieve many legislative and regulatory wins for the industry in the 115th Congress. Thanks to AAA board, volunteer leaders, and members alike, we were able to accomplish many of our goals to improve payment and overall regulations that will benefit AAA members and the industry as a whole. The accomplishments of the 115th Congress include:

  1. Ensuring inclusion and passage of a 5-year extension of the ambulance Medicare add-on payments through December 31, 2022 in the Bipartisan Budget Act (BBA) of 2018. Also included in the BBA of 2018 was the AAA preferred method for data cost collection using a survey which is the most likely to provide useful data as well as the least burdensome on the industry.
  2. Following passage of the extension of the Medicare ambulance add-on payments AAA has successfully worked with CMS and the RAND corporation in the development of the cost collection system in order to ensure that the end result is feasible for our industry. AAA has established itself and our members as a main stakeholder throughout the cost collection development process and look forward to remaining involved.
  3. Introduce legislation to restructure the offset included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 for the 5-year extension of Medicare add-on payments. This restructuring would allow for the additional 13% reduction included in the BBA 2018 to only be applied those ambulance service agencies in which 50% or more of their volume are repetitive BLS nonemergency transports to and from dialysis centers rather than the industry as a whole.
  4. Supporting the efforts of the IAFC and NAEMT in passage of language from the SIREN Act (2830, H.R. 5429) that reauthorizes the Rural EMS Grant program. These grants will now provide funds up to $200,000 for training, equipment, and personnel retention in rural areas. The grants also require a 10% contribution by the grant recipient. While the AAA had advocated that language be revised to ensure small rural for-profit providers would still be able to apply for grants, we are pleased to see this program reauthorized.
  5. Through AAA members, working with Senator Collins to include report language to accompany the FY2019 Senate VA Appropriations bill which directs the VA to use the prudent layperson standard for determining emergency ambulance services coverage.

2019 Priorities

While we are very pleased with our accomplishments during the 115th Congress, we are eager for the year ahead and will work hard to see all of these priorities come to fruition. The AAA’s priorities for 2019 include:

  1. Cost Collection
    The 116th Congress will be an important year in the development and implementation of the cost collection system within CMS and its work with the RAND corporation. AAA intends to remain very involved in this process in working with CMS, HHS, and Congress in order to ensure that the cost collection system end result is something with which our industry is able to comply. The AAA is also working to create comprehensive education resources on the new cost collection system. This information can be found at ambulancereports.org.

Ambulance Cost Education

  1. 2019 Medicare Priorities Bill
    AAA is eager to introduce a larger piece of legislation that will contribute to the long-term sustainability of the industry. This legislation will address issues such as inadequate reimbursement, the need for innovative payment models, a lack of equitable polices and more.
  1. Public Safety Officers Benefit
    AAA will pursue efforts to include paramedics, EMTs and other first responders who work for a private for-profit EMS organization and who die in the line of duty as part of the Public Safety Offers Benefit program so that their family members will receive death benefits.
  1. VREASA
    We will continue to pursue the Veterans Reimbursement for Emergency Ambulance Services Act (VREASA) which would provide veterans with reimbursement for emergency ambulance services when a prudent layperson would have a reasonable expectation that a delay in seeking immediate medical attention will jeopardize the life or health of the veteran.
  1. NEATSA Bill – Restructure of Medicare Payment for Non-Emergency ESRD transport
    AAA will continue to push for policies that will help our industry target bad actors rather than harshly penalizing the entire ambulance industry for the fraudulent behavior of a few. We will continue to push to restructure the offset of additional cuts on ESRD transports to specifically target this additional cut to only those with 50% or more of their volume as repetitive BLS nonemergency transports to and from dialysis centers.

We will keep you posted of new developments. Thank you for your continued support of the American Ambulance Association.

The American Ambulance Association invites you to become involved with our efforts on Capitol Hill.  It is thanks to our member’s contributions, both time and resources, that we are able to have such a strong influence with federal legislators. The efforts of the AAA’s legislative team and our members have given our industry nearly $2 billion in desperately needed Medicare relief over the last 12 years. Become a member today and join this important work.

AAA Advocacy Priorities

Senate Introduces NEATSA Act Companion Bill (S. 3619)

Earlier this year, Congress included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 an offset to go along with the extension of the add-ons that will cut reimbursement for BLS nonemergency transports to and from dialysis centers by an additional 13%. This will be on top of the existing 10% reduction. Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Doug Jones (D-AL) just introduced S. 3619 which would restructure the offset so that a majority of the additional reduction would be focused on those ambulance service agencies in which 50% or more of their volume are repetitive BLS nonemergency transports to and from dialysis centers. S. 3619 will serve as a companion Bill to the House version, the NEATSA Act (H.R.6269) by Congressman LaHood (R-IL) and Congresswoman Sewell (D-AL) which was introduced in June 2018. The additional cut went into effect on October 1 and impacted AAA members and the AAA are working to get this legislation passed. The AAA will be sure to keep members updated as this legislation moves through Congress. Questions?: Contact Us If you have questions about the legislation or regulatory initiatives being undertaken by the AAA, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the AAA Government Affairs (more…)

Rural Health Day Advocacy Update

Happy National Rural Health Day! Thank you to all of the ambulance service providers who work hard providing life-saving treatment in rural areas every day. In part of our ongoing advocacy efforts, the AAA sent a letter today to the Rural Caucuses in the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Addressed to leadership of the caucuses, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE), and Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), this in-depth letter highlights the critical work that our members do every day around the country and raises important issues affecting the industry. Issues covered in the letter include: Stabilizing the Ambulance Fee Schedule Make the add-ons permanent and build them into the base rate Use new data from the ambulance cost collection program to ensure reimbursement is adequate going forward New data should be used to assess the problems with the current ZIP-code methodology for determining rural and super-rural services Ambulance Fee Schedule Reform Proposed alternative models for rural ambulance services Encouraging Congress to look at alternative destination options for ambulance service providers Recognizing Ambulance Services as Providers of Health Care Moving non-fire-based ambulance services from suppliers to providers under Medicare The letter also highlights…

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Statement on Ambulance Cost Data Collection

October 22, 2018 Contact: Amanda Riordan Phone: 703-615-4492 Email: ariordan@ambulance.org For Immediate Release Statement on Cost Data Collection for Ambulance Services WASHINGTON, DC—On October 17, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), and The Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association released a joint statement discouraging fire-based providers from endorsing AAA’s proposed ambulance cost collection methodology. While we regret to learn that they do not believe that our method is appropriate for the segment of providers they represent, we respectfully disagree and invite open dialogue as our previous requests to discuss cost collection with the IAFF and IAFC were declined. The American Ambulance Association membership is composed of ambulance providers of all types and sizes, ranging from non-profit, for-profit, volunteer, hospital-based, county-based, public utility models, and more. We represent 911 ambulance providers in major metropolitan areas, small 911 providers in rural America, and those who provide vital hospital-to-hospital interfacility mobile healthcare throughout the country. AAA encourages all ambulance providers to visit www.ambulancereports.org to learn about the extensive research, time, and thought devoted to ensure that our comprehensive recommendations accurately capture data for the full spectrum of providers. “Regardless of an ambulance organization’s service model, we collectively serve (more…)

Talking Medicare: CMS Implements Further Dialysis Cuts

Talking Medicare: CMS Implements Further Cuts in Reimbursement for Dialysis Services; Medicare Payment Data Shows Continued Reduction in Overall Spending on Dialysis Transports, but Net Increase in Dialysis Payments in Prior Authorization States On October 1, 2018, CMS implemented an additional thirteen (13%) cut in reimbursement for non-emergency BLS transports to and from dialysis. This cut in reimbursement was mandated by Section 53108 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. This on top of a ten (10%) cut in reimbursement for dialysis transports that went into effect on October 1, 2013. As a result, BLS non-emergency ambulance transports to and from dialysis that occur on or after October 1, 2018 will be reimbursed at 77% of the applicable Medicare allowable. The payment reduction is partially the result of the reduction in the amounts paid for dialysis services. However, it is also reflective of an overall decline in the number of approved dialysis transports. For this, we can look primarily to the impact of a four-year demonstration project that requires prior authorization of dialysis transports in 8 states and the District of Columbia. As a reminder, the original prior authorization states were selected based on higher-than-average utilization rates and high rates of…

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Update on Opioid Legislation & Rural EMS Grant Program

The AAA continues to push on policy issues important to our members we are happy to provide an update on two pieces of legislation that we have been actively monitoring. Congress is proceeding with consideration of several legislative vehicles as they address key topics prior to the November elections. First Responder Opioid Grant Program The AAA is pleased to report that language we supported on grant funding for opioid protection training for first responders has passed the Senate. Based on an analysis by counsel, we believe all ambulance service agencies would be eligible to apply for the grants. In 2017, the Administration officially labeled the Opioid Crisis as a public health emergency, and in response Congress has finally taken action. On Monday, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the Opioid Crisis Response Act with a bipartisan vote of 99-1. The impact of this legislation on the ambulance industry includes providing resources and training so that first responders and other key community sectors, including emergency medical services agencies, can appropriately protect themselves from exposure to drugs such as fentanyl, carfentanil and other dangerous licit and illicit drugs. $36,000,000 will be given annually for each fiscal year from 2019 through 2023. The bill also (more…)

Government Affairs Update

Government Affairs Update: What We’re Working On The AAA continues to press policy initiatives with Congress and the Administration that are important to our members. While not as high-profile as our successful efforts earlier this year on the five-year extension of the Medicare ambulance add-ons, the AAA is working hard on ambulance legislation and regulations that impact the EMS industry and ambulance services across the country. Here is a snapshot of those current efforts. Over the next month, we will be providing weekly in-depth updates highlighting these issues. Ambulance Cost Data Collection System The AAA was successful in getting our preferred language of an ambulance cost data collection system using a survey and random sample methodology included with the extension of the add-ons in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. However, that was just the first key step in the process. We now need to ensure that CMS gets the details right as the agency develops the structural specifics and data elements for the system. It is critical that the system is designed in a way that ambulance service suppliers and providers will submit the most accurate data possible. The data will ultimately provide the information necessary for Congress, the…

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