CDC Elevates First Responders to Highest Priority for COVID-19 Testing

On April 27, the CDC issued an update to its Guidance on “Evaluating and Testing Persons for Coronavirus Disease 2019” in which “first responders with symptoms” are now in the category of “highest priority” as to the prioritization of groups who should be tested for COVID-19. The AAA has been advocating to federal agencies and the Congress to move first responders to the highest level of priority for COVID-19 testing. The update can be viewed at HERE.

AAA Sends Letter Requesting Priority Testing for EMS

AAA Sends Letter to Requesting Priority Testing for First Responders

Earlier today, the AAA sent a letter to the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) requesting that first responders with COVID-19 symptoms be given priority one status in the order of groups to be tested for COVID-19. The USPHS had issued guidance that assigned first responders a level two status. The AAA stated paramedics and EMTs should be included in the top level with other health care professionals who are on the front lines of caring for patients with COVID-19.  Read the Letter HERE.

 

Read the Letter

CMS Reevaluates Accelerated Payments, Suspends Advances

From the CMS Newsroom

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 26, 2020

 CMS Reevaluates Accelerated Payment Program and Suspends Advance Payment Program

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it is reevaluating the amounts that will be paid under its Accelerated Payment Program and suspending its Advance Payment Program to Part B suppliers effective immediately. The agency made this announcement following the successful payment of over $100 billion to healthcare providers and suppliers through these programs and in light of the $175 billion recently appropriated for healthcare provider relief payments.

CMS had expanded these temporary loan programs to ensure providers and suppliers had the resources needed to combat the beginning stages of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Funding will continue to be available to hospitals and other healthcare providers on the front lines of the coronavirus response primarily from the  Provider Relief Fund. The Accelerated and Advance Payment (AAP) Programs are typically used to give providers emergency funding and address cash flow issues for providers and suppliers when there is disruption in claims submission or claims processing, including during a public health emergency or Presidentially-declared disaster.

Since expanding the AAP programs on March 28, 2020, CMS approved over 21,000 applications totaling $59.6 billion in payments to Part A providers, which includes hospitals. For Part B suppliers, including doctors, non-physician practitioners and durable medical equipment suppliers, CMS approved almost 24,000 applications advancing $40.4 billion in payments. The AAP programs are not a grant, and providers and suppliers are typically required to pay back the funding within one year, or less, depending on provider or supplier type. Beginning today, CMS will not be accepting any new applications for the Advance Payment Program, and CMS will be reevaluating all pending and new applications for Accelerated Payments in light of historical direct payments made available through the Department of Health & Human Services’ (HHS) Provider Relief Fund.

Significant additional funding will continue to be available to hospitals and other healthcare providers through other programs. Congress appropriated $100 billion in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (PL 116-136) and $75 billion through the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (PL 116-139) for healthcare providers. HHS is distributing this money through the Provider Relief Fund, and these payments do not need to be repaid.

The CARES Act Provider Relief Fund is being administered through HHS and has already released $30 billion to providers, and is in the process of releasing an additional $20 billion, with more funding anticipated to be released soon. This funding will be used to support healthcare-related expenses or lost revenue attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic and to ensure uninsured Americans can get treatment for COVID-19.

For more information on the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund and how to apply, visit hhs.gov/providerrelief

For an updated fact sheet on the Accelerated and Advance Payment Programs, visit: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/Accelerated-and-Advanced-Payments-Fact-Sheet.pdf

###

Get CMS news at cms.gov/newsroom, sign up for CMS news via email and follow CMS on Twitter CMS Administrator @SeemaCMS@CMSgov, and @CMSgovPress.

Congress Provides More PPP and Health Care Funds

Congress Provides More PPP and Health Care Funds

Moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed by a vote of 388 to 5 the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act. The United States Senate had passed the legislation by unanimous consent on Tuesday evening. The legislation is a bridge package between the CARES Act and Stimulus Package 4 which is still under development.

The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act provides an additional $310 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) established under the CARES Act. The PPP had run out of its initial funding on April 9 and the program has been closed to new applications. The PPP provides businesses with fewer than 500 employees, including ambulance service organizations, with access to loans at favorable terms to cover employee payroll for eight weeks. A borrower can have all or a portion of the loan forgiven depending on the percentage of retained employees.

The legislation also allocates an additional $75 billion in funds for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF). Like the initial $100 billion funding from the CARES Act, these funds are intended to provide economic relief to health care providers during the COVID-19 public health emergency. AAA members received direct grant money a few weeks ago under the PHSSEF in the form of an additional Medicare payment. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will have the discretion to determine how the additional $75 billion is made available to health care providers. The AAA continues to advocate directly with senior HHS officials for ground ambulance service suppliers and providers to receive a share of funds proportional to our role health care providers on the front line of the pandemic.

The final provision of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act provides additional funding for testing and research related to COVID-19 through the remainder of 2020.

The AAA with the help of our members had pushed for additional funding under the PHSSEF and were successful. We now need to ensure that the actual funds make their way to our members.

The AAA leadership and staff will continue to tirelessly advocate for the much-needed relief to ensure that our members can keep their doors open, receive the equipment necessary to protect their staff, and the resources to provide excellence in mobile healthcare. We will keep you abreast of our advocacy efforts as well as how to access funding under the PHSSEF as soon as the details become available.

URGENT – CALL TO ACTION Contact Congress Today About COVID-19 Ambulance Relief!

URGENT – CALL TO ACTION

Contact Congress Today About COVID-19 Ambulance Relief!

The Congress and Administration are currently in negotiations on a fourth economic stimulus package to address the impact of COVID-19. While the AAA and our members were successful in helping secure the recent direct payments to ambulance service providers and suppliers, we still have several issues yet to be addressed including additional financial relief. Specifically, we are advocating for coverage for “treatment in place”, the ability of private for-profit EMS organizations to apply directly for FEMA Public Assistance program grants, additional direct compensation for COVID-19 expenses and lost revenue, and priority access to PPE and COVID-19 testing for paramedics and EMTs.

Please e-mail today the health aides for your members of Congress!

 It will take you only a few minutes per congressional office to email a letter. Just follow these steps. 

  1. USE LETTER TEMPLATE: CLICK HERE to access a draft letter. Please customize your letter including the cities and towns you serve, if you are sending to the office of a Senator or Representative and any additional details as to services you are providing during the COVID-19 outbreak and the financial impact on your operation.
  1. LOOK UP YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND THEIR WEBFORM ADDRESS: CLICK HERE to access a list of the webform addresses of your Members of Congress.
  1. SEND LETTERS TO MEMBERS: Cut and paste the webform link into your Internet browser and you will be directed to the webpage for contacting your member of Congress. Fill in your contact information, cut and paste your letter into the comments box and hit submit.

In addition to advocating for the Congress to address these issues in the next economic stimulus package, the AAA is also pressing federal agencies to use their authority to help make some of these changes regulatorily.

The AAA will continue to fight for our members as your operation and paramedic and EMTs are on the front lines of combating the Coronavirus.

AAA/NAEMT Request PSOB Coverage for All Medics During COVID-19

On April 9, the AAA and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr requesting the Department of Justice extend coverage under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program to all paramedics and EMTs during the COVID-19 national health emergency. While paramedics and EMTs employed by governmental and non-profit EMS agencies are currently eligible for the program, those employed by private for-profit organizations and on the front lines of responding to COVID-19 pandemic are not covered. Read Letter HERE.

AAA Sends Letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin on Paycheck Protection Program

Earlier today, the AAA sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin asking that he use his discretionary authority to apply the same terms of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to ambulance service organizations with 500 or more employees. The PPP, established by the CARES Act, is only available to businesses with 500 or fewer employees and provides more favorable loan terms based on the retention of employees. Read the letter HERE.

HHS Announces Release of Initial Tranche of CARES Act Provider Relief Funding

On March 27, 2020, President Trump signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).  As part of that Act, Congress allocated $100 billion to the creation of a “CARES Act Provider Relief Fund,” which will be used to support hospitals and other healthcare providers on the front lines of the nation’s coronavirus response.  These funds will be used to fund healthcare-related expenses or to offset lost revenue attributable to COVID-10.  These funds will also be used to ensure that uninsured Americans have access to testing a treatment for COVID-19.  Collectively, this funding is referred to as the “CARES Act Provider Relief Fund.”

On April 9, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) indicated that it would be disbursing the first $30 billion of relief funding to eligible providers and suppliers starting on April 10, 2020.  This money will be disbursed via direct deposit into eligible providers and supplier bank accounts.  Please note that these are outright payments, i.e., these are not loans that will need to be repaid. 

Who is Eligible to Receive Relief Fund Payments?

HHS indicated that any healthcare provider or supplier that received Medicare Fee-For-Service reimbursements in 2019 will be eligible for the initial allocation.  Payments to practices that are part of larger medical groups will be sent to the group’s central billing office (based on Medicare enrollment information).  HHS indicated that billing organizations will be identified by their Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs).

Are There Any Conditions to Receipt of this Funding?

Yes.  As a condition to receiving relief funding, a healthcare provider or supplier must agree not to seek to collection out-of-pocket payments from COVID-19 patients that are greater than what the patient would have otherwise been required to pay if the care had been provided by an in-network provider.

How is the Amount of Relief Funding an Entity will Receive Determined?

HHS indicated that the amounts healthcare providers and suppliers will receive will be based on their pro-rata share of total Medicare FFS expenditures in 2019.  HHS indicated that Medicare FFS payments totaled $484 billion in 2019.

Providers and suppliers can estimate their initial relief payment amount by dividing their 2019 Medicare FFS reimbursement by $484 billion, and then multiplying that “ratio” by $30 billion.  Note: payments from Medicare Advantage plans are not included in the calculation of a provider’s/supplier’s total 2019 Medicare payments.

As an example, HHS cited a community hospital that received $121 million in Medicare payments in 2019.  HHS indicated that this hospital’s ratio would be 0.00025.  That amount is then multiplied by $30 billion to come up with its initial relief fund payment of $7.5 million.

The AAA has created a CARES Act Provider Relief Calculator
that you can use to estimate your initial relief payment.  |
USE DOWNLOADABLE EXCEL CALCULATOR►

Do I Need to do Anything to Receive Relief Funds?

No.  You do not need to do anything to receive your relief funding.  HHS has partnered with UnitedHealth Group (UHG) to disburse these monies using the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system.  Payments will be made automatically to the ACH account information on file with UHG or CMS.

Providers and suppliers that are normally paid by CMS through paper checks will receive a check from CMS within the next few weeks.

How Will I Know if I Received My Relief Funds?

The ACH deposit will come to you via Optum Bank.  The payment description will read “HHSPayment.”

Do I Need to do Anything Once I Receive My Relief Funds?

Yes.  You will need to sign an attestation statement confirming relief of the funds within 30 days.  These attestations will be made through a webportal that HHS anticipates opening the week of April 13, 2020.  The portal will need to be accessed through the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund webpage, which can be accessed by clicking here.

You will also be required to accept the Terms and Conditions within 30 days.  Providers and suppliers that do not wish to accept these terms and conditions are required to notify HHS within 30 days, and then remit full repayment of the relief funds.  The Terms and Conditions can be reviewed by clicking here.

How will HHS Distribute the Remaining $70 Billion in Relief Funds?

HHS has indicated that it intends to use the remaining relief funds to make targeted distributions to providers in areas particularly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, rural providers, providers of services with lower shares of Medicare reimbursement or who predominantly serve Medicaid populations, and providers requesting reimbursement for the treatment of uninsured Americans.

COVID-19 Relief Payments Begin Today

AAA ADVOCATES FOR COVID-19 RELIEF FOR AMBULANCE SERVICES

COVID-19 Relief Payments Begin Today

Beginning today, ambulance service suppliers and providers should start automatically receiving an allocation of payments from the Public Health and Social Emergency Fund. According to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), an initial distribution of $30 billion of the funds appropriated through the CARES Act will be distributed to Medicare providers and suppliers over the next week. The Fund was appropriated at $100 billion but not all the funds will be distributed as direct payments to providers and suppliers.

HHS is determining the amount of individual payments based on the proportion of the 2019 Medicare payments to the provider or supplier compared to total outlays for Medicare fee-for-service that year of $484 billion. The AAA estimates a total of approximately $265 million will be distributed to ground ambulance services in the initial round of payments. While the initial payments are a good start, the AAA is pushing for ambulance services to receive ten times that amount in initial relief.

The AAA had advocated for funding in the CARES Act for ambulance services and on April 6, the AAA sent HHS Secretary Azar a letter requesting that ambulance service providers and suppliers receive $48,000 per registered ambulance for financial relief from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AAA is pushing for a similar amount within future economic stimulus packages as well as several other proposals for legislative and regulatory relief.

On Monday, the AAA will be issuing a Call To Action to its members focusing on four of the provisions on our below list.

Priority Access for EMS to PPE and COVID-19 Testing

  • Recognition by FEMA, HHS (USPHS), CDC of need for priority access to personal protection equipment (PPE) and COVID-19 testing for EMS
  • Non-governmental EMS being eligible to apply directly to FEMA for PPE under the Public Assistance Grants and waive applicant match for all emergency response providers

EMS Services Coverage and Reimbursement for COVID-19 Response

  • Waiver for Medicare coverage of treatment in place and loosing of signature requirements
  • 20% increase, similar to hospitals, for emergency and non-emergency ambulance services in treating and transporting COVID-19 patients
  • SCT reimbursement level for COVID-19 transports and waive hospital-to-hospital limitation on SCT

EMS System Financial Sustainability in Response to COVID-19

  • Grant program under HHS specific to EMS for reimbursement of costs resulting from response to COVID-19 and lost revenue. Payment of $48,000 per registered ambulance to each ambulance service provider and supplier.
  • Expand Paycheck Protection Program to ambulance service organizations with 500 or more employees
  • Fuel tax relief for ground ambulance services

The AAA greatly appreciates the work of our members on the front lines of treating, transporting and testing patients with COVID-19 and we will continue to push for help for you.

CARES Act Provider Relief Fund

President Trump is providing support to healthcare providers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. On March 27, 2020, the President signed the bipartisan CARES legislation that provides $100 billion in relief funds to hospitals and other healthcare providers on the front lines of the coronavirus response. This funding will be used to support healthcare-related expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19 and to ensure uninsured Americans can get testing and treatment for COVID-19.

Immediate infusion of $30 billion into healthcare system

Recognizing the importance of delivering funds in a fast and transparent manner, $30 billion is being distributed immediately – with payments arriving via direct deposit beginning April 10, 2020 – to eligible providers throughout the American healthcare system. These are payments, not loans, to healthcare providers, and will not need to be repaid.

Who is eligible for initial $30 billion

  • All facilities and providers that received Medicare fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursements in 2019 are eligible for this initial rapid distribution.
  • Payments to practices that are part of larger medical groups will be sent to the group’s central billing office.
    • All relief payments are made to the billing organization according to its Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN).
  • As a condition to receiving these funds, providers must agree not to seek collection of out-of-pocket payments from a COVID-19 patient that are greater than what the patient would have otherwise been required to pay if the care had been provided by an in-network provider.
  • This quick dispersal of funds will provide relief to both providers in areas heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and those providers who are struggling to keep their doors open due to healthy patients delaying care and cancelled elective services.

How are payment distributions determined

  • Providers will be distributed a portion of the initial $30 billion based on their share of total Medicare FFS reimbursements in 2019. Total FFS payments were approximately $484 billion in 2019.
  • A provider can estimate their payment by dividing their 2019 Medicare FFS (not including Medicare Advantage) payments they received by $484,000,000,000, and multiply that ratio by $30,000,000,000. Providers can obtain their 2019 Medicare FFS billings from their organization’s revenue management system.
  • As an example: A community hospital billed Medicare FFS $121 million in 2019. To determine how much they would receive, use this equation:
    • $121,000,000/$484,000,000,000 x $30,000,000,000 = $7,500,000

What to do if you are an eligible provider

  • HHS has partnered with UnitedHealth Group (UHG) to provide rapid payment to providers eligible for the distribution of the initial $30 billion in funds.
  • Providers will be paid via Automated Clearing House account information on file with UHG or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).
    • The automatic payments will come to providers via Optum Bank with “HHSPAYMENT” as the payment description.
    • Providers who normally receive a paper check for reimbursement from CMS, will receive a paper check in the mail for this payment as well, within the next few weeks.
  • Within 30 days of receiving the payment, providers must sign an attestation confirming receipt of the funds and agreeing to the terms and conditions of payment. The portal for signing the attestation will be open the week of April 13, 2020, and will be linked on this page.
  • HHS’ payment of this initial tranche of funds is conditioned on the healthcare provider’s acceptance of the Terms and Conditions – PDF, which acceptance must occur within 30 days of receipt of payment.  If a provider receives payment and does not wish to comply with these Terms and Conditions, the provider must do the following: contact HHS within 30 days of receipt of payment and then remit the full payment to HHS as instructed.  Appropriate contact information will be provided soon.

Is this different than the CMS Accelerated and Advance Payment Program?

Yes. The CMS Accelerated and Advance Payment Program has delivered billions of dollars to healthcare providers to help ensure providers and suppliers have the resources needed to combat the pandemic. The CMS accelerated and advance payments are a loan that providers must pay back. For more information from CMS, click here.

How this applies to different types of providers

All relief payments are being made to providers and according to their tax identification number (TIN). For example:

  • Large Organizations and Health Systems: Large Organizations will receive relief payments for each of their billing TINs that bill Medicare. Each organization should look to the part of their organization that bills Medicare to identify details on Medicare payments for 2019 or to identify the accounts where they should expect relief payments.
  • Employed Physicians: Employed physicians should not expect to receive an individual payment directly. The employer organization will receive the relief payment as the billing organization.
  • Physicians in a Group Practice: Individual physicians and providers in a group practice are unlikely to receive individual payments directly, as the group practice will receive the relief fund payment as the billing organization. Providers should look to the part of their organization that bills Medicare to identify details on Medicare payments for 2019 or to identify the accounts where they should expect relief payments.
  • Solo Practitioners: Solo practitioners who bill Medicare will receive a payment under the TIN used to bill Medicare.

Priorities for the remaining $70 billion

The Administration is working rapidly on targeted distributions that will focus on providers in areas particularly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, rural providers, providers of services with lower shares of Medicare reimbursement or who predominantly serve the Medicaid population, and providers requesting reimbursement for the treatment of uninsured Americans.

Ensuring Americans are not surprised by bills for COVID-19 medical expenses

The Trump Administration is committed to ensuring that Americans are protected against financial obstacles that might prevent them from getting the testing and treatment they need from COVID-19.

  • As announced in early April, a portion of the $100 billion Provider Relief Fund will be used to reimburse healthcare providers, at Medicare rates, for COVID-related treatment of the uninsured.
    • As a condition, providers are obligated to abstain from “balance billing” any patient for COVID-related treatment.
  • The Families First Coronavirus Response Act requires private insurers to cover an insurance plan member’s cost-sharing payments for COVID-19 testing.
  • President Trump has also secured commitments from private insurers, including Humana, Cigna, UnitedHealth Group, and the Blue Cross Blue Shield system to waive cost-sharing payments for treatment related to COVID-19 for plan members.
Content created by Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA)
Content last reviewed on April 9, 2020

Senate Passes Economic Stimulus Package Several Provisions Help Ambulance Services!

Moments ago, the U.S. Senate passed an economic stimulus package in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The House is expected to consider the legislation in the next few days. As a result of the efforts of the AAA and our members who are also on the front line of the response to COVID-19, we were able to improve the final package.

The package includes several provisions that will provide urgent financial assistance and resources to ambulance service organizations and our employees. The provisions are consistent with requests made by the AAA, although they target a broader constituency consistent with much of the rest of the stimulus package.

The provisions in the package related to our requests are as follows:

Stimulus Package Provisions

Health Care Provider Provisions

  • $100 Billion Grant Program: Direct funding to public entities, Medicare or Medicaid enrolled suppliers and providers, and for-profit entities and not-for-profit entities as the Secretary may specify to reimburse for health care related expenses or lost revenues that are attributable to coronavirus. Ambulance service suppliers and providers will file applicants for funding with the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • Sequestration Delay: Suspension of the 2% sequestration cut in Medicare funding for ambulance service and other providers and suppliers. The suspension would begin May 1 and end December 31, 2020 with sequestration then extended from 2029 to 2030.
  • Telehealth: Authorizes the Secretary to waive any of the current requirements in statute for telehealth services during the emergency.

Business Provisions

  • Payroll Tax Deferral: Employers including ambulance service organizations starting upon enactment of the legislation will defer payment of their 6.2% share of the payroll tax through December 31, 2020. Half of the tax will be due by the end of 2021 and the second half by the end of 2022.
  • Small Business Loans: Provides $350 billion in loans under the Payment Protection Program for employers including ambulance service organizations with 500 or fewer employees. Loans available up to $10 million per employer.

Emergency Responder Provisions

  • $45 Billion Disaster Relief Fund: Grants made available under the FEMA Public Assistance Program to state and local governments to address the recovery from COVID-19 including reimbursement for medical response, PPE and backfilling positions. The funding highlights the critical need for access by emergency responders to PPE and other resources. For-profit ambulance service organizations would be eligible for funding through their state or local government. If your organization faces an issue with government officials as to eligibility, please provide them the FEMA Fact Sheet: Public Assistance for Ambulance Services which in 2009 the AAA had successfully encouraged FEMA to issue.
  • $3.5 Billion Child Care Grants: Provides funding for childcare programs for essential workers including emergency responders such as paramedics and EMTs.

Not all of the provisions the AAA had advocated for inclusion in the package were addressed in some way. This is likely not the last legislative package that the Congress develops to combat COVID-19 and we will advocate for our provisions to be included in future packages. We will also continue to push these issues through regulatory and other legislative efforts as outlined below.

Regulatory and Additional Legislative Efforts

Coverage of Treatment in Place and Alternative Destination

On March 11, the AAA sent a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma asking the agency to wave regulatory restrictions for treatment in place and transport to alternative destinations and for Medicare to cover these services related to potential COVID-19 cases. CMS had initially indicated they do not think they have the authority to wave the restrictions under the 1135 Waiver, but the AAA is continuing to work with CMS to provide payment for these services when provided to Medicare beneficiaries.  A press release from the House Republican leadership suggests that this issue is being addressed.

Employee Tax Credit for EMS Training and Uniforms

While the stimulus package includes reimbursement for training and equipment for first responders, it did not include the specific request for an above-the-line tax credit for paramedics and EMTs for training and uniforms paid by the employee. Earlier this year, AAA representatives had met with staff of Congressman Suozzi (D-NY), who sponsored the tax credit language which passed the House late last year, on how we can press the Senate to consider the provision. The AAA will continue to work with Congressman Suozzi on other opportunities to pursue the tax credit.

Federal Benefits during COVID-19 for All Paramedics and EMTs

Several paramedics and EMTs who worked for private ambulance service organizations lost their lives on September 11, 2001, while responding to the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center. Then-Attorney General John Ashcroft extended Public Safety Officers Benefits (PSOB) to the surviving family members of those paramedics and EMTs. The AAA is sending a letter to Attorney General William Barr asking him to provide the same consideration for paramedics and EMTs responding to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The AAA Will Keep Fighting

We will continue to press the Congress and federal agencies for help to ensure ambulance service organizations and our paramedics and EMTs serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic have the necessary resources and financial assistance to serve their communities.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of all of our members who contacted their members of Congress in support of relief and resources for ambulance services

AAA members can register for our free members-only webinar here

URGENT – CALL TO ACTION Congress Still Negotiating Stimulus Package Ambulance Specific Relief Not Yet Included: Act Now!

None of the proposals offered so far on an economic stimulus package to address the impact of COVID-19 include our specific provisions to provide ambulance relief! Negotiators on a final package failed to reach an agreement over the weekend. There is still time to influence the final outcome! Please write to your members of Congress!

There are provisions in the packages that would help businesses, first responders and Medicare providers and suppliers. However, the AAA is advocating for specific help for ambulance services with the prioritization of COVID-19 resources, coverage of services, as well as direct financial assistance. The Congress has heard directly from the AAA about our requests and they need to hear from their constituents about assistance to your operations. If you have not yet contacted your members of Congress, please do so today!

Please e-mail today the health aides for your members of Congress!

It will take you only a few minutes per congressional office to email a letter. Just follow these steps.

1. USE LETTER TEMPLATE: CLICK HERE to access a draft letter. Please customize your letter including the cities and towns you serve, if you are sending to the office of a Senator or Representative and any additional details as to services you are providing during the COVID-19 outbreak and the financial impact on your operation.

2. LOOK UP HEALTH STAFFER AND EMAIL ADDRESS: CLICK HERE to access a list of the name of the health staffer and email address for all congressional offices.

3. SEND E-MAILS TO STAFFERS: Copy and paste the email address of the health staffer and copy and paste the letter as the body of the e-mail and send.

While the Congress may not include all of our requests in this stimulus package, there are likely to be future legislative vehicles in which the AAA will continue to press for passage of additional relief for ambulance service organizations and personnel.

URGENT – CALL TO ACTION Contact Congress Today About COVID-19 Ambulance Relief!

The Congress and Administration are currently in negotiations to finalize an economic stimulus package to address the impact of COVID-19. As reported previously, the AAA has been pressing for the prioritization of COVID-19 resources and coverage of services, as well as financial assistance, for ambulance services organizations. Negotiations are expected to wrap up this weekend.

Please e-mail today the health aides for your members of Congress!

It will take you only a few minutes per congressional office to email a letter. Just follow these steps.

1. USE LETTER TEMPLATE: CLICK HERE to access a draft letter. Please customize your letter including the cities and towns you serve, if you are sending to the office of a Senator or Representative and any additional details as to services you are providing during the COVID-19 outbreak and the financial impact on your operation.

2. LOOK UP HEALTH STAFFER AND EMAIL ADDRESS: CLICK HERE to access a list of the name of the health staffer and email address for all congressional offices.

3. SEND E-MAILS TO STAFFERS: Copy and paste the email address of the health staffer and copy and paste the letter as the body of the e-mail and send.

While the Congress may not include all of our requests in this stimulus package, there are likely to be future legislative vehicles in which the AAA will continue to press for passage of additional relief for ambulance service organizations and personnel.

AAA Pushing Ambulance COVID-19 Relief

Over the past several days, the AAA has been pushing the Congress and the Administration to provide immediate financial and other relief to ambulance service organizations and their employees. EMS personnel are often the first medical professionals to come into contact with patients with COVID-19. But our members are running low on personal protection equipment and other supplies necessary to respond to the pandemic.

AAA members are providing vital medical services beyond the traditional stabilizing and transporting of patients for which they need to be reimbursed. Our members are also seeing a decrease in both emergency and non-emergency transport call volume as Americans are opting to forgo medically necessary trips to the emergency department and as elective procedures are postponed. It is important that Congress understands the short and long-term implications of our response to COVID-19 and provides critical financial relief.

To help our members in their time of need as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AAA has been advocating that Congress needs to include in the stimulus package they are developing several provisions to help ambulance service organizations. The provisions include providing ambulance service organizations priority access to PPE, authorizing CMS to waive Medicare policy and reimburse for treatment in place, reimbursing ambulance services for additional costs incurred in responding to COVID-19, suspending the payroll tax and providing all paramedics with coverage under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB) and a tax credit for training and uniforms.

For the details of our requests of the Congress, please access our position paper.

While the Congress is working on its third stimulus package which it is expected to complete in the next few days, it is likely not to be the last. With this package moving so quickly, the AAA has been working with a targeted list of AAA members in the states and districts of key policymakers to the negotiations. We will be issuing in the near term a Call To Action to the entire AAA membership with the request for everyone to contact their members of Congress with our list of requests. We hope you will answer the call.

The AAA will continue over the next weeks and months to push the Congress and Administration on our requests to help ambulance service organizations. Thank you for your support.

Permanent Medicare Ambulance Relief Bill Introduced in House

Moments ago, Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) introduced the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act of 2019 (H.R. 4938). Congressmen Peter Welch, (D-VT), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), and Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) are original cosponsors of the legislation. Thank you to the bill sponsors for their continued support!

H.R. 4938 would help stabilize current and future Medicare reimbursement of ambulance services and set the stage for future reform of the Medicare ambulance fee schedule. If passed, this bill would:

  • Make Medicare Add-ons Permanent – Current temporary 2 percent urban, 3 percent rural, and super rural bonus payments would be made permanent.
  • Expand Prior Authorization Pilot Program Nationwide – To address fraud and abuse with the transportation of dialysis patients by ambulance, the bill expands the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) national prior authorization program for repetitive non-emergency basic life support (BLS) dialysis transports. CMS has not yet exercised its authority to expand this successful pilot program nationwide. While CMS is considering exercising its authority to extend the program nationwide in a recent proposed rule, it has not made a final determination yet.
  • Provide Regulatory Relief – Amend requirements under the 855 form to make change notifications less burdensome.
  • Protect Access to Ambulance Services in Rural and Low Population Density Areas – Protect access to ambulance services in rural and super-rural areas, by establishing a policy to protect low volume areas and a process for CMS to review changes in the rural or super-rural status of an area after the next census occurs.

The AAA has worked diligently to get this legislation introduced and we are excited to share this news with the membership. We would like to thank all the AAA members who have worked closely with their elected representatives to get this legislation introduced. In the coming weeks, the AAA will be asking members to contact their Members of Congress to voice their support of this legislation.

If you have any questions, please contact Tristan North (tnorth@ambulance.org) or Aidan Camas (acamas@ambulance.org).

Update on AAA Legislative Priorities

The American Ambulance Association has been working hard to accomplish the legislative goals of the membership in the 116th Congress. The AAA would like to take this opportunity to provide an update on what we have accomplished thus far in the 116th Congress.

Balance/Surprise Billing

Balance/surprise billing is a hot button issue that recently came into the spotlight at the start of the 116th Congress. With the President’s announcement calling for Congress to pass legislation that would end surprise billing for patients, there has been an increase in Congressional action on the issue including introduced legislation, discussion drafts and hearings in all committees of jurisdiction. The AAA has been working tirelessly with the Congressional committees of jurisdiction to educate Members and staff on the unique characteristics of EMS systems and that it would be inappropriate to apply the same restrictions on balanced billing to ground ambulance services.

The AAA has formed a working group comprised of AAA member volunteers that have worked on policy and messaging on balance billing. The working group has submitted comments to the Energy and Commerce Committee and Senate HELP committees advocating that the ambulance industry is unique from other stakeholders, and as such, should be looked at differently. Ambulance service providers and suppliers are required by law to treat and transport all patients, regardless of their ability to pay and are heavily regulated at the local level. The AAA has been working to communicate these factors that place the ambulance industry in a different situation than many other stakeholders.

Public Safety Officers Death Benefit (PSOB)

The Public Safety Officers Death Benefit (PSOB), a one-time benefit paid to families of first responders killed in the line of duty, is an issue that the AAA has passionately advocated for over many years. In the 116th Congress, the AAA has secured introduction of legislation in the House of Representatives, H.R. 2887, the Emergency Medical Service Providers Protection Act. H.R. 2887 would extend the PSOB to first responders employed by private for-profit EMS agencies. The AAA was able to secure several commitments from Members of Congress to cosponsor the legislation during Stars of Life meetings in Washington, DC. In addition to taking action to move H.R. 2887 through the legislative process, the AAA will be engaging in an outreach campaign in the next few weeks.

Dialysis Off-Set Restructuring

The AAA has worked toward reintroduction of legislation to restructure the offset that was passed into law in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (H.R. 1892) in the 115th Congress. This offset included a total cut of 23% to the Medicare reimbursement for basic life support (BLS) non-emergency transports performed by all ambulance service suppliers and providers to and from dialysis centers. This cut served as an offset to the 5-year extension of Medicare add on payments that our industry worked hard to get extended.

The AAA has secured introduction of legislation in both the House and Senate. H.R. 3021 was introduced by Representatives LaHood (R-IL) and Sewell (D-AL) and S. 228 by Senators Cassidy (R-LA) and Jones (D-AL). If passed, this legislation would change the cut that is currently in place so that it applies specifically to companies conducting over 50% ESRD non-emergency transports. Those ambulance services with over 50% ESRD transports would get a cut of 29.5%, while those doing less would receive a 15.5% cut. The AAA will continue to work toward movement and passage of this legislation that would better distribute the reduction to those providers which do almost exclusively non-emergency dialysis transports and thus have a lower cost of providing services.

Medicare Priorities Bill

The AAA has crafted legislation that is specifically aimed at addressing major Medicare ambulance industry issues. The issues that will be included in future legislation include making Medicare ambulance add-ons permanent, implementing a prior-authorization program across the nation, allowing for transportation to alternative destinations, reducing regulatory burdens, and providing relief through maintaining many zip codes as rural following the next census. The AAA is working to get this Medicare priorities legislation introduced in the coming months so that we can get to work on solving these Medicare issues that impact our industry as a whole.

VA Legislation

Another priority that that the AAA has been diligently working toward getting introduced is Veterans Affairs (VA) legislation. The Veterans Reimbursement for Emergency Ambulance Services Act (VREASA) introduced by Congressman Tipton (R-CO) 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. This legislation was introduced as a result of the VA consistently requiring all medical records be provided, including the records of treatment after the emergency service has taken place. Should those records show that it was not a life threatening emergency or a false alarm, the claim for reimbursement is being denied. The VA legislation would mandate that the VA apply the “prudent layperson” definition of emergency to determine coverage of ambulance claims.

The AAA is also working toward addressing two other issues with the VA to enforce more prompt payment by the VA and treating the VA as the first payor, similar to Medicare, as it is determined whether there is a different primary payor. The AAA has been working with Senators Collins and Tester on language help solve this ongoing and serious reimbursement issue.

In our next update, we will be reporting on the progress the AAA has made this year on regulatory issues.

Questions? Contact Us

If you have questions about the discussion draft or balance billing initiatives being undertaken by the AAA, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the AAA Government Affairs Team.

Tristan North – Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
tnorth@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9025

Ruth Hazdovac – AAA Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs
rhazdovac@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9027

Aidan Camas – Manager of State & Federal Government Affairs
acamas@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9026

Thank you for your continued membership and support

House Introduces NEATSA Act Companion Bill (H.R. 3021)

House Introduces NEATSA Act Companion Bill (H.R. 3021)

The American Ambulance Association (AAA) is pleased to announce that, Congressman Darin LaHood (R-IL) and Congresswoman Terri Sewell (D-AL) have introduced H.R. 3021 the “Non-Emergency Ambulance Transportation Sustainability and Accountability Act of 2019” or “NEATSA Act.”

Last year, Congress included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 an offset to cover the cost of the 5 year extension of the add-ons. The offset cuts reimbursement for BLS non-emergency transports to and from dialysis centers by an additional 13%. This is on top of the preexisting 10% reduction. This legislation 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 non-emergency transports to and from dialysis centers.

H.R. 3021 is the reintroduction of H.R.6269 from last Congress. This legislation serves as a companion bill to the Senate version, S. 228 by Senator Cassidy (R-LA) and Senator Jones (D-AL) which was introduced in January 2019. The additional cut went into effect on October 1, 2018 and has since negatively impacted AAA members. As such, the AAA is grateful for the support of Congressman LaHood and Congresswoman Sewell in working with us to get this important legislation introduced.

The AAA has worked diligently to ensure the timely introduction of this legislation that will ultimately help protect vital ambulance services for end stage renal disease patients. The AAA is working to help pass this bill through the legislative process and we will keep members updated as this legislation moves through Congress.

House Introduces PSOB Bill (H.R. 2887)

The American Ambulance Association (AAA) is pleased to announce that Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY-01) and Congressman Thomas Suozzi (D-NY-03) have introduced H.R. 2887, the “Emergency Medical Services Providers Protection Act.” This piece of legislation would extend the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB) to cover first responders who work for private providers. The PSOB Program provides death and education benefits to survivors of fallen law enforcement officers, firefighters, and other first responders, and disability benefits to officers catastrophically injured in the line of duty.

The AAA has advocated tirelessly for years that all first responders killed in the line of duty, should be eligible for this benefit regardless of who their employer is. Many of the nation’s first responders work for more than one EMS Agency. Local communities throughout the country decide which organization is best fit to provide high quality mobile healthcare to their community. For large parts of the country, privately run ambulance services have been providing high quality health care, and responding to the same natural disasters, incidents, etc. as their peers for decades.

It is common for Paramedics and EMTs to also work/volunteer as firefighters and vice versa. Currently, if a line of duty death occurs, whether first responders receive this benefit depends on which uniform they were wearing that day. A firefighter picking up an extra shift with a local ambulance service could end up being ineligible for this benefit if that company happens to be privately run. The AAA believes this legislation acknowledges the vital role that all first responders play in keeping our communities safe and healthy. If passed, this change would apply to injuries sustained on or after March 1, 2007.

The AAA thanks Congressman Zeldin and Suozzi for taking the lead on this critical issue. AAA members are encouraged to contact their representatives about co-sponsoring H.R. 2887. Full text of the Bill is not yet available online but can be read here. Please contact the AAA’s Government Affairs team if you have any questions.

Questions? Contact Us

If you have questions about the discussion draft or balance billing initiatives being undertaken by the AAA, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the AAA Government Affairs Team.

Tristan North – Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
tnorth@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9025

Ruth Hazdovac – AAA Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs
rhazdovac@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9027

Aidan Camas – Manager of State & Federal Government Affairs
acamas@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9026

Thank you for your continued membership and support.

Member Update on Balance Billing

This morning Ruth Hazdovac and Aidan Camas of AAA staff and Kathy Lester, Esq, Healthcare Consultant to the AAA attended a briefing held by the House Energy & Commerce Committee on the issue of surprise/balance billing. At the briefing, staff for Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) announced that they would be releasing a bipartisan discussion draft, the No Surprises Act, which would “protect consumers from surprise medical bills and increase transparency in our health care system.”

As of now, ground and air ambulances are NOT included in the discussion draft. However, the committee is asking for comments on ground and air ambulance and recommendations on how to provide relief to the consumer in this area. The AAA has a Balance Billing Work Group that is hard at work developing a policy recommendation that will work for our members.

The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd Doggett also announced today that the Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing next week entitled “Hearing on Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills.” AAA Staff will be at the briefing and provide a timely update to membership on any developments.

The AAA team will be submitting comments and policy recommendations based off the work of the Balance Billing Work Group to both the Energy & Commerce and Ways & Means Committee to ensure that the views of our members are well represented. We will also be reaching out to AAA members in the states of key policymakers on the Committees to submit comments, as well. The AAA will also provide members with key talking points in the event they are contact by their Members of Congress or their staff.

Questions? Contact Us

If you have questions about the discussion draft or balance billing initiatives being undertaken by the AAA, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the AAA Government Affairs Team.

Tristan North – Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
tnorth@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9025

Ruth Hazdovac – AAA Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs
rhazdovac@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9027

Aidan Camas – Manager of State & Federal Government Affairs
acamas@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9026

Thank you for your continued membership and support.

Release: CMMI Announces Ambulance Innovative Payment Pilot Program

February 14, 2019

For Immediate Release
Contact Maria Bianchi
American Ambulance Association
202-802-9020
info@ambulance.org

CMMI Announces Ambulance Innovative Payment Pilot Program

Washington, DC – Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) announced the launch of the Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) Model.  During the next five years, this model will test paying ambulance providers and suppliers when they transport beneficiaries to locations other than an emergency department, if the alternative location is more appropriate medically for the patient.  It will also test paying for health care services provided by qualified health care professionals or through telehealth at the scene even if the ambulance does not transport the patient.

While there are several important details yet to be released, this model appears to track the recommendations the American Ambulance Association, our members, and other industry partners have been working with CMS to implement.

“Over the last 7 years, the AAA and our members have been working to develop an innovative payment framework to modernize the Medicare ambulance benefit,” said AAA President Aarron Reinert. “We are pleased that CMS is taking this important step and look forward to working closely with Administrator Verma, Director Boehler and their teams on the details of the ideas announced today to ensure the appropriate implementation.”

Representatives of the American Ambulance Association also participated in the CMS announcement of this model today in DC.  Senior Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) officials including Secretary Alex Azar, CMS Administrator Seema Verma and CMMI Director Adam Boehler spoke at the event. AAA President-Elect Shawn Baird represented the AAA at the announcement.

While the details of the program are still under development and will be communicated through program guidance, a few general details were provided at the event.

The Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) Model, would test two new ambulance payment methods. Under ET3, participating ambulance service providers or suppliers would be able to receive payment for:

  • treatment in place with a qualified health care practitioner, either on-the-scene or connected using telehealth; and
  • for unscheduled, emergency transport of Medicare beneficiaries to alternative destinations (such as 24-hour care clinics) other than destinations covered under current regulations (such as hospital EDs).

The program will be national in scope and thus open to all ambulance service suppliers and providers who meet the program requirements, which are still being finalized. The program will be voluntary so providers and suppliers who chose not to participate can continue to be paid under current policy. CMS anticipates releasing applications for the program this summer and an anticipated start date for the program in early 2020.

While seeing the specific details of the program will be crucial, we are very pleased that CMMI is announcing its commitment today to test multiple innovative payment models for ambulance service providers and suppliers. The AAA and our volunteer leaders and members have been working in a collaborative manner with other EMS organizations for the last 5 years to develop an evidence-based, data-driven structural framework to support the adoption of innovative payment models for ambulance emergency and non-emergency services. In 2016, the AAA issued a joint statement with NAEMSP, NAEMSO, and NAEMT outlining this framework. During the last two year, the AAA has worked closely with the Congress, CMS and the CMMI to seek the implementation of this framework. To encourage as broad an adoption as possible, we have focused on achieving these goals through the regulatory process.

The AAA is committed to the development and implementation of innovative payment models.  It is critical that they be designed in a manner that will ensure their success. Adoption of the framework along with having the necessary data to establish reimbursement rates that reflect the cost of providing ambulance services will usher in a new era of ambulance services for not only Medicare beneficiaries, but also for all Americans. As part of the effort to modernize the ambulance benefit, ambulance service suppliers should be recognized as providers of health care services and not merely a transportation benefit. The days of merely driving patients to and from other providers are long gone.

We believe that our efforts and those of the Administration will help us achieve this exciting goal. The AAA supports expanding the destination site for 9-1-1 and similar calls, which is currently limited to hospital emergency departments. For some patients, it is more appropriate to take them to other types of facilities, such as rural health clinics, substance or behavioral health facilities, and inpatient psychiatric hospitals. Allowing ambulance services to use state and local protocols to help triage patients to the most appropriate setting will help address the opioid epidemic and better care for patients with behavioral health issues, as well as urgent low acuity medical conditions.

We want to thank the Congress and the groups at CMS and CMMI who began to lay the ground work for the next phase of innovative payment models last winter as well. We also greatly appreciate the efforts of other EMS representatives who worked with the CMMI to help push for the pilot program.

The AAA will continue to advocate for data and evidence-based changes to the Medicare ambulance fee schedule which allow ambulance service providers and suppliers to provide even better medical services to patients.

###

About the American Ambulance Association
The American Ambulance Association, formed in 1979, represents 500 ambulance services across the United States that serve their communities with emergency medical services, interfacility mobile healthcare, and community paramedicine 24/7/365. The Association serves as a voice and clearinghouse for mobile healthcare, and views prehospital care as an essential part of the total public health care system.