President’s Perspective January 2019

Dear Fellow AAA Members, Happy New Year from the American Ambulance Association! We enter this new year ready to rise together as an industry to face the mobile healthcare’s challenges and opportunities. Advocacy Update The AAA worked hard in the 115th Congress to achieve many legislative and regulatory wins for the industry. Thanks to the AAA Board, volunteer leaders, staff and consultants, and members alike, we were able to accomplish many of our goals to improve payment policies and overall regulations that will benefit AAA members and the industry as a whole. Last year, the AAA ensured the inclusion and passage of a 5-year extension of the ambulance Medicare add-on payments through December 31, 2022 as part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. The AAA also successfully pushed our preferred method for data cost collection using a survey which is the most likely to provide useful data for future payment reform as well as be the least burdensome on ambulance service providers. In coordination with particular AAA members, the AAA worked 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 (more…)

2019 Annual Call for Presentations

The American Ambulance Association Annual Conference & Trade Show is continuously one of the largest inclusive gatherings of ambulance and pre-hospital care leaders, and features distinct tracks for Reimbursement and Policy, Human Resources and Operations, Government Affairs, and Executive Leadership. Our primary focus is to provide critical information that both new and established ambulance services may utilize to better serve their communities and operate their services more efficiently and profitably. The following are general topics areas to be addressed, but other subject areas are welcome: Recruitment, Retention, and Human Resources Operations, Risk Management and Safety Management and Supervision Leadership Development & Structure Improved Fleet Maintenance/Management Clinical/Quality Assurance Program Reimbursement/Patient Accounts Innovations, Technology, and Communications Emerging Healthcare Trends/Hot Topics Healthcare Reform/Public Health Format of Sessions Sessions will range from larger audience general sessions, to smaller breakout sessions within various topic tracks. Breakout sessions may be 20 minutes, 60 minutes, or 75 minutes in length. We are accepting single speaker as well as panel discussions. Sessions may be either classroom style or set for small work groups. Audience involvement is encouraged. Proposal Instructions Please be advised that participation as a presenter is strictly on a voluntary basis. AAA is unable to pay speaker fees or (more…)

Update on HHS OIG Reports on Ambulance Services

Update on HHS Office of the Inspector General Reports on Ambulance Services The HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) released an update to the Work Plan as the year comes to a close.  There are no new projects specific to ambulance services, but the update does provide a summary of three projects that have been completed or are in progress. Medicare Part B Payments for Ambulance Services Subject to Part A Skilled Nursing Facility Consolidated Billing Requirements (expected release 2019). In this work, the OIG  seeking to determine whether ambulance services paid by Medicare Part B were subject to Part A SNF consolidated billing requirements. The OIG will also assess the effectiveness of edits in CMS’s Common Working File to prevent and detect Part B overpayments for ambulance transportation subject to consolidated billing. Prior OIG reports have identified high error rates and significant overpayments for services subject to SNF consolidated billing. Ambulance Services – Supplier Compliance with Payment Requirements (partially completed; remainder expected release 2019). Prior OIG work has found that Medicare made inappropriate payments for advanced life support emergency transports. The OIG seeks to determine whether Medicare payments for ambulance services were made in accordance with Medicare requirements. ...

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Congress Passes SIREN Act

On December 12, 2018, Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill (S. 3042) by a 386-47 vote in the House and 87 – 13 vote in the Senate. Included in the final Bill was language similar to the SIREN Act (S. 2830, H.R. 5429) to reauthorize the Rural EMS Grant program. In an effort to ensure the funding would go to the most needy, small, and rural EMS providers, the language of the amendment and SIREN Act would change the eligibility to just governmental and non-profit EMS agencies. Therefore, small rural for-profit ambulance service providers would no longer be eligible to apply for grants – which haven’t been funded for over a decade. These grants would 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. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will issue a guidance with the details on how these grants will be administered. Since the program has been unfunded for so long, it is unclear at this time, how it will be rolled out. HRSA will most likely follow past protocol providing details through guidance including how to submit and deadlines. (more…)

Federal District Court Judge Strikes Down the ACA

On December 14, 2018, a federal district court judge for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling striking down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the grounds that the Individual Mandate was unconstitutional, and that the rest of the law cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny without the Individual Mandate. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s decision relates to a lawsuit filed earlier this year by 20 states and two individuals. The plaintiffs argued that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 — which amended the Individual Mandate to eliminate the penalty on individuals that failed to purchase qualifying insurance effect January 1, 2019 — rendered the Individual Mandate unconstitutional. The plaintiffs further argued that the Individual Mandate was inseverable from the rest of the ACA, and, therefore, that the entire ACA should be struck down. The defendants in this case were the United States of America, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, in his capacity as the Secretary of HHS, and David J. Kautter, in his capacity as the Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 16 states and the District of Columbia intervened as additional defendants. In order to properly understand the district (more…)

HHS Releases Communication Checklist to Aid First Responders

HHS Releases Checklist to Aid First Responders in Communicating Effectively with Patients The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has released a plain language checklist that is intended to aid First Responders during emergencies that involve individuals with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and communications related disabilities. The AAA issued numerous articles to its members in 2016 about the newly published requirements for all healthcare providers, including EMS agencies, under the nondiscrimination provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) Section 1557. The requirements are intended to prevent discrimination in the provision of healthcare and ensure that all individuals can meaningfully participate in their healthcare treatment, including those patients with LEP and other communications related disabilities. The announcement yesterday is intended to provide additional resources for healthcare providers to ensure compliance with the ACA Section 1557. The checklist includes numerous recommendations and action steps that EMS agencies can utilize to ensure that they are serving all members of a community in a meaningful way. These recommendations include conducting research about the communities by accessing U.S. Census Bureau data, engaging Centers for Independent Living and local assistance groups, and by preparing emergency messaging that can be...

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CMS Posts 2019 Public Use File

On November 28, 2018, CMS posted the 2019 Ambulance Fee Schedule Public Use Files. These files contain the amounts that will be allowed by Medicare in calendar year 2019 for the various levels of ambulance service and mileage. These allowables reflect a 2.3% inflation adjustment over the 2018 rates. The 2019 Ambulance Fee Schedule Public Use File can be downloaded from the CMS website by clicking here. Unfortunately, CMS has elected in recent years to release its Public Use Files without state and payment locality headings. As a result, in order to look up the rates in your service area, you would need to know the CMS contract number assigned to your state. This is not something the typical ambulance service would necessarily have on hand. For this reason, the AAA. has created a reformatted version of the CMS Medicare Ambulance Fee Schedule, which includes the state and payment locality headings. Members can access this reformatted fee schedule here....

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CMS Announces 2019 Ambulance Inflation Factor

On November 30, 2018, CMS issued Transmittal 4172 (Change Request 11031), which announced the Medicare Ambulance Inflation Factor (AIF) for calendar year 2019. The AIF is calculated by measuring the increase in the consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) for the 12-month period ending with June of the previous year. Starting in calendar year 2011, the change in the CPI-U is now reduced by a so-called “productivity adjustment”, which is equal to the 10-year moving average of changes in the economy-wide private nonfarm business multi-factor productivity index (MFP). The MFP reduction may result in a negative AIF for any calendar year. The resulting AIF is then added to the conversion factor used to calculate Medicare payments under the Ambulance Fee Schedule. For the 12-month period ending in June 2018, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has calculated that the CPI-U has increased 2.9%. CMS further indicated that the CY 2019 MFP will be 0.6%. Accordingly, CMS indicated that the Ambulance Inflation Factor for calendar year 2019 will be 2.3%....

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