Ground Ambulance and Patient Billing (GAPB) Advisory Committee Public Meeting #2 (August 16, 2023)
The Ground Ambulance and Patient Billing (GAPB) Advisory Committee Second Public Meeting was held on August 16, 2023. Materials for this meeting are available for download on the CMS.gov GAPB website.
As we continue this webinar series, we look to you as industry experts to provide feedback and recommend information that would be beneficial in future webinars. Written public comments for consideration by the Advisory Committee may be emailed to: GAPBAdvisoryCommittee@
Public comments on the specific topics listed in the GAPB Advisory Committee Public Meeting #2 Agenda, should be submitted by September 5, 2023 for consideration by the GAPB Advisory Committee.
By Brian S. Werfel, Esq.
On April 25, 2023, the HHS Office of the Inspector General (OIG) posted a notice in the Federal Register that it would be updating its publicly available resources, including its compliance program guidance documents. The OIG’s Compliance Program Guidances (CPGs) were developed as voluntary, non-binding guidance documents that can assist healthcare providers in developing their own internal controls to ensure adherence to federal laws, regulations, and program requirements.
Specifically, the OIG announced that it will no longer publish updated or new CPGs in the Federal Register. Instead, updates or new CPGs will now be made available on the OIG’s website. The OIG will also revise the format for CGS. The new format will consist of: (1) a General CPG (GCPG) that applies to all healthcare providers and (2) industry-specific CPGs (ICPGs) tailored to the fraud and abuse areas specific to that industry. The OIG indicated that it anticipates issuing the GCPG by the end of calendar year 2023, with ICPGs being issued starting in calendar year 2024. The OIG further indicated that it anticipates the first two ICPGs will address Medicare Advantage plans and nursing facilities.
Note: the OIG is not updating its 2003 guidance on compliance programs for ambulance suppliers. The OIG frequently cites this document in enforcement actions it takes against ambulance providers and suppliers. Thus, this guidance document remains relevant to this day. For that reason, A.A.A. members are strongly encouraged to review this document to ensure that their existing compliance program incorporates the elements cited by the OIG.
Previous Compliance Program Guidance for Ambulance Suppliers
In March 2003, the OIG issued its “Compliance Program Guidance for Ambulance Suppliers.” This document sets forth the basic elements that it believes should be included in any effective compliance program, and then discusses various fraud and abuse and compliance risks associated with the provision of ambulance services under the Medicare Program.
The 7 basic elements identified by the OIG are:
- The development of compliance policies and procedures
- The designation of a compliance officer or compliance committee
- The implementation of education and training programs
- The use of internal monitoring and reviews
- Policies designed to respond appropriately to detected misconduct
- Ensuring open lines of communication
- The enforcement of disciplinary standards through well-publicized guidelines
The CPG then goes into greater detail on each of these elements, including specific recommendations on how to properly implement each of these elements. For instance, the OIG suggests that the organization’s compliance office be a high-level individual who reports directly to the organization’s CEO or Board of Directors.
With respect to the specific fraud and abuse risks associated with ambulance, the OIG highlighted the issue of medical necessity. The OIG also cited level of service issues (i.e., billing ALS vs. BLS), non-emergency transports, and coordination of benefit issues as particular areas of concern.
Department of Veterans Affairs Issues Final Rule on Reimbursement for Ambulance Services and Other Special Modes of Transportation
On February 16, 2023, the Department of Veterans published in the Federal Register the final rule to revise the payment methodology for beneficiary travel by ambulance and other so-called “special modes of transportation. The changes contained within the final rule were first included in a November 5, 2020 proposed rule.
The final rule will become effective on February 16, 2024.
The VA currently pays for beneficiary travel under certain circumstances. To be eligible for reimbursement, the veteran must meet certain eligibility criteria. Specifically, the veteran must be traveling either: (i) for care at a VA health facility or (ii) for care at a non-VA facility that has been previously approved by the VA. The veteran must also meet one of the following additional criteria:
- The veteran must have a VA disability rating of 30% or higher;
- The veteran must be traveling for treatment of a service-related condition (if their VA disability rating is less than 30%);
- The veteran receives a VA pension;
- The veteran has an income below the maximum annual VA pension rate;
- The veteran cannot otherwise afford to pay for their travel; or
- The veteran is traveling for one of the following reasons: (i) to obtain a VA compensation and pension exam, (ii) to obtain a VA service dog, or (iii) to obtain VA-approved transplant care.
Beneficiary travel covers all modes of transportation, including transportation by private vehicle, common carriers (e.g., taxi, livery, and public transportation), mass transit, etc. Beneficiary travel also covers so-called “special modes of transportation,” which includes air and ground ambulance services, wheelchair vans services, and stretcher vans services.
The rules governing the payment for beneficiary travel services at set forth in 38 C.F.R. § 70.30.
Subpart (a)(4) sets forth the payment methodology for the reimbursement of special modes of transport, and simply provides that payment is based on “[t]he actual cost of a special mode of transportation. In the context of ambulance services, this has historically been interpreted to mean the ambulance provider’s full billed charges.
Provisions of Final Rule
Under the final rule, the VA would revise its existing payment methodology for beneficiary travel by ambulance and other special modes of transportation to no longer reimburse providers for their actual costs, and to instead base reimbursement on:
- For ground and air ambulance services, the lesser of: (i) the actual charge for ambulance transportation (i.e., the provider’s billed charges) or (ii) the amount determined under the Medicare Ambulance Fee Schedule.
- For other special modes of transportation (i.e., ambulette, wheelchair van, or stretcher van), the lesserof: (i) the provider’s actual charge, (ii) the applicable Medicaid rate in the state where the provider is domiciled (using the lowest Medicaid rate where the provider is domiciled in multiple states), or (iii) the applicable Medicaid rate in the state where the transport occurred (or the lowest Medicaid rate if the transport occurred in more than one state). Note: the revised regulations provide that if none of the states involved has a “posted rate,” the VA would continue to pay the provider’s full billed charges
The revised payment methodology for non-ambulance special modes of transport is intended to be temporary. In its proposed rule, the VA indicated that it would use this payment methodology for a minimum of 90 calendar days after a final rule was posted in the Federal Register. This period of time was intended to allow the VA to gather payment data. If the VA believes that it gathered sufficient payment data during this initial 90-day period, it indicated that it would develop a new payment methodology “using the lowest possible rate.” If the VA determined that it did not have sufficient payment data after the initial 90-day period, it would extend the proposed payment methodology for additional 90-day periods as needed until it believed it had sufficient data. The VA indicated that it did not anticipate needing more than 18 months from the effective date of the final rule to gather sufficient payment data to implement a new payment method
From ASPR on March 31, 2022
The National Advisory Committee on Seniors and Disasters (NACSD) and the National Advisory Committee on Individuals with Disabilities and Disasters (NACIDD) will soon host public meetings of these two advisory committees.
Join board members, distinguished guests, federal leaders, and other experts to discuss the challenges, opportunities, and priorities in meeting the unique health needs of older adult populations and people with disabilities during and after disasters and public health emergencies.
The agendas for each of the next meetings include time to hear from the public. The floor will be open to hear as many relevant comments as possible. To learn how to request a speaking time, please visit each committee’s event page. You can send questions about the NACSD to NACSD@hhs.gov and questions about the NACIDD to NACIDD@hhs.gov.
March 24, 2022
The Honorable Xavier Becerra
Secretary of Health and Human Services
Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201
Dear Secretary Becerra:
Ground ambulance service organizations and fire departments continue to struggle financially from the enduring economic effects of the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). Our respective members face sharp increases in the costs of fuel, equipment, medical supplies, and staffing as we deal with a severe shortage of paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) which has been an issue for years but exacerbated by the pandemic. We implore you to help ensure communities around the country have access to 9-1-1 emergency and non-emergency ground ambulance services through the remainder of the PHE and beyond with an infusion of $350 million from returned and/or unspent money in the Provider Relief Fund (PRF).
We greatly appreciate the funding that ground ambulance service organizations and fire departments have already received from the PRF. The funds have been a lifeline for many of our respective members and their ability to continue to serve their communities. However, as the Phase 4 distribution of funds demonstrated, more funding is needed for ground ambulance services. Our members indicate the funds they received in Phase 4 covered approximately 50% of their lost reimbursement and increased costs from July 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, whereas previous distributions were closer to 88%. We therefore respectfully request an immediate distribution of $350 million or 10% of the annual Medicare expenditure on ground ambulance services.
We request that the funds be distributed in a similar manner as the Tranche 1 distribution from the PRF. The automatic, across-the-board deposit of funding was especially helpful for small and rural ground ambulance service organizations. These rural organizations provide care in underserved areas and are often daunted even by an abbreviated application process. To ensure equity for all communities, we support universal direct deposit.
Additionally, we encourage HHS to make these payments based on the National Provider Identification (NPI) number of the ground ambulance service organization or fire department rather than Tax ID Number (TIN). In the case of moderate and large cities, many municipal departments may share a TIN while maintaining distinct NPIs. Providing these payments according to TIN may unintentionally comingle funds intended for different departments such as fire departments, public health departments, and local government-run hospitals or clinics.
The American Ambulance Association (AAA), International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT), and National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) represent the providers of vital emergency and non-emergency ground ambulance services and the paramedics, EMTs and firefighters who deliver the direct medical care and transport for every community across the United States.
Our members take on substantial risk every day to treat, transport, and test potential COVID-19 patients, and play a vital role in providing vaccinations to individuals in their homes. Ground ambulance service organizations and fire departments, however, urgently need the additional
$350 million to help offset the increased costs and lower reimbursement resulting from our vital response to the pandemic.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.
American Ambulance Association
International Association of Fire Chiefs
International Association of Fire Fighters
National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians
National Volunteer Fire Council
“Currently, no federal law protects consumers against “surprise” bills from out-of-network ground ambulance providers. Some state and local governments regulate ground ambulance surprise billing practices; however, such laws may not apply to all health plans or ambulance providers in an area. Because of the substantial policy interest in ground ambulance services, FAIR Health drew on its vast database of private healthcare claims to illuminate multiple aspects of such services across the nation, including utilization, costs, age, gender, diagnoses and differences across states.”
Committee on Ways and Means
U.S. House of Representatives Hearing on “America’s Mental Health Crisis”
Statement of Shawn Baird, President, American Ambulance Association
February 2, 2022
Chairman Neal, Ranking Member Brady, and members of the Committee, on behalf of the members of the American Ambulance Association (AAA), I greatly appreciate the opportunity to provide you with a written statement on America’s Mental Health Crisis. Simply put, America’s hometown heroes who provide emergency medical services and transitional care need the Congress to recognize the significant stress and trauma paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) have experienced as a result of this pandemic. The AAA urges members of Congress not to forget these heroes and to expressly include all ground ambulance service personnel in efforts to address America’s Mental Health Crisis.
Emergency medical services (EMS) professionals are ready at a moment’s notice to provide life-saving and life-sustaining treatment and medical transportation for conditions ranging from heart attack, stroke, and trauma to childbirth and overdose. These first responders proudly serve their communities with on-demand mobile healthcare around the clock. Ground ambulance service professionals have been at the forefront of our country’s response to the mental health crisis in their local communities. Often, emergency calls related to mental health services are triaged to the local ground ambulance service to address.
While paramedics and EMTs provide important emergency health care services to those individuals suffering from a mental or behavioral health crisis, these front-line workers have been struggling to access the federal assistance they need to address the mental health strain that providing 24-hour care, especially during a COVID-19 pandemic, has placed on them. We need to ensure that there is equal access to mental health funding for all EMS agencies, regardless of their form of corporate ownership so that all first responders can receive the help and support they need.
EMS’s Enhanced Role in the Pandemic
As if traditional ambulance service responsibilities were not enough, paramedics and EMTs have taken on an even greater role on the very front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. In many areas, EMS professionals lead Coronavirus vaccination, testing, and patient navigation. As part of the federal disaster response subcontract, EMS personnel even deploy to other areas around the country to pandemic hotspots and natural disasters to bolster local healthcare resources in the face of extraordinarily challenging circumstances.
Mental & Behavioral Health Challenges Drive Staffing Shortages on the Front Line
Myriad studies show that first responders face much higher-than-average rates of post- traumatic stress disorder, burnout, and suicidal ideation. These selfless professionals work in the field every day at great risk to their personal health and safety—and under extreme stress.
Ambulance service agencies and fire departments do not keep bankers’ hours. By their very nature, EMS operations do not close during pandemic lockdowns or during extreme weather emergencies. “Working from home” is not an option for paramedics and EMTs who serve at the intersection of public health and public safety. Many communities face a greater than 25% annual turnover of EMS staff because of these factors. In fact, across the nation EMS agencies face a 20% staffing shortage compounded by near 20% of employees on sick leave from COVID-19. This crisis-level staffing is unsustainable and threatens the public safety net of our cities and towns.
Sadly, to date, too few resources have been allocated to support the mental and behavioral health of our hometown heroes. I write today to ask for Congressional assistance to help the helpers as they face the challenges of 2022 and beyond.
Equity for All Provider Types
Due to the inherently local nature of EMS, each American community chooses the ambulance service provider model that represents the best fit for its specific population, geography, and budget. From for-profit entities to municipally-funded fire departments to volunteer rescue squads, EMS professionals share the same duties and responsibilities regardless of their organizational tax structure. They face the same mental health challenges and should have equal access to available behavioral health programs and services.
Many current federal first responder grant programs and resources exclude the tens of thousands of paramedics and EMTs employed by for-profit entities from access. These individuals respond to the same 911 calls and provide the same interfacility mobile healthcare as their governmental brethren without receiving the same behavioral health support from
Federal agencies. To remedy this and ensure equitable mental healthcare access for all first responders, we recommend that:
- During the current public health emergency and for at least two years thereafter, eligibility for first responder training and staffing grant programs administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (such as SAMHSA Rural EMS Training Grants and HHS Occupational Safety and Health Training Project Grants) should be expanded to include for-profit entities. Spending on training and services for mental health should also be included as eligible program
- Congress should authorize the establishment of a new HHS grant program open to public and private nonprofit and for-profit ambulance service providers to fund paramedic and EMT recruitment and training, including employee education and peer-support programming to reduce and prevent suicide, burnout, mental health conditions and substance use
- Any initiatives to fund hero pay or death benefits for first responders should be inclusive of all provider models—for-profit, non-profit, and
The rationale for the above requests is twofold. First, ensuring the mental health and wellness of all EMS professionals—regardless of their employer’s tax status—is the right thing to do.
Second, because keeping paramedics and EMTs employed by private ambulance agencies who are on the frontlines of providing vital medical care and vaccinations during this pandemic is the smart thing to do.
Thank you for considering this request to support ALL of our nation’s frontline heroes. They are ready to answer your call for help, 24/7—two years into this devastating pandemic, will Congress answer theirs?
Please do not hesitate to contact American Ambulance Association Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Tristan North, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-486-4888 should you have any questions.
- Prevalence of PTSD and common mental disorders amongst ambulance personnel: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr 2018;53(9):897-909.
- ALmutairi MN, El Mahalli AA. Burnout and Coping Methods among Emergency Medical Services Professionals. J Multidiscip Healthc. 2020;13:271-279. Published 2020 Mar 16. doi:10.2147/JMDH.S244303
- Stanley, I. H., Hom, M. A., & Joiner, T. E. (2016). A systematic review of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among police officers, firefighters, EMTs, and Clinical Psychology Review, 44, 25–44. https://doi.org/10.1016/j. cpr.2015.12.002
- Doverspike D, Moore S. 2021 Ambulance Industry Employee Turnover Study. 3rd Washington, DC: American Ambulance Association; 2021.
Please see the below notice from FEMA on the extension of the Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) Program:
“FEMA has been working with the General Services Administration to resolve interface issues related to SAM.gov that were affecting some applicants’ ability to begin inputting their federal fiscal year (FY) 2021 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program applications into the FEMA GO System. Specifically, this issue included applicants that received error messages stating their organizations were not found and that their Unique Entity Identifier (UEI)/Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) combination did not exist despite the applicants’ SAM.gov accounts being fully active.
As this issue is ongoing, the FY 2021 AFG Program application period will remain open until January 21, 2022 5:00 p.m. ET. All applicants will automatically be granted this extension. This ensures that applicants affected by the UEI/EFT issue will have sufficient time to complete the online application. The extension to the application period will not affect the award timeline. In the meantime, FEMA continues to strongly encourage applicants to review the FY 2021 AFG Program Notice of Funding Opportunity and the associated tools posted on the FEMA website here: FY 2021 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Application Guidance Materials | FEMA.gov. In preparation for application submission, applicants may also draft their narratives separately and cut and paste them into the appropriate areas of FEMA GO once the SAM.gov interface issue is resolved. The questions that are asked in the narrative section may be found in the FY 2021 AFG Program Narrative Get Ready Guide.
Fire Grants Help Desk: If you have questions about the NOFO or application process, call or email the Fire Grants Help Desk. The toll-free number is 1-866-274-0960; the e-mail address for questions is email@example.com.The
On December 15, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a ruling which modifies an earlier court national injunction related to the CMS mandatory vaccination rules. In the latest ruling, the court upheld the injunction issued by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri as it applied to the fourteen (14) plaintiff states, Louisiana, Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio. However, it overturned the lower court’s expansion of that injunction to other, non-plaintiff states, in the injunction. Meaning that between the 5th and 8th Circuit Court rulings, the CMS mandatory vaccination injunction only applies to the following 24 states:
5th Circuit Plaintiffs: Louisiana, Montana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio
8th Circuit Plaintiffs: Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota and New Hampshire.
States not covered by the CMS mandatory vaccination injunction:
California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin
This decision, follows another mandatory vaccine related decision issued by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit which criticized the Louisiana court for expanding the CMS vaccine mandate nationwide given that a Florida District Court had already refused to issue an injunction and because it felt that it was likely that the mandate was likely authorized under current CMS rules.
What does this mean for employers?
If you are an employer in one of the states not covered by an injunction, you should consult with any covered healthcare facility that your organization performs services under contract. These covered healthcare facilities will be required to mandate vaccination for their staff and for any contractor staff that interacts with their employees or patients. Additionally, they will be seeking proof that your staff is vaccinated against COVID-19, unless they have a protected medical or religious accommodation.
Employers should have already taken the initial steps toward compliance with the CMS mandatory vaccination rules, including having a list of all employees with their vaccination status. Additionally, employers should have an established policy related to mandatory vaccination and a procedure for requesting and processing an exception/accommodation requests. Lastly, healthcare institutions may independently institute mandatory vaccination rules for their employees and can require this of anyone entering their facility, including EMS staff.
We will continue to keep you post as these cases proceed through the legal system. These facilities may still independently require your staff to be vaccinated. If your organization has questions or need assistance deciphering or preparing for these requirements, please contact the AAA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) has announced that it will begin distributing Phase 4 General Distribution Payments on Thursday, December 16, 2021. According to HRSA, approximately 75% of all Phase 4 applications have now been processed. HRSA indicated that the remaining 25% of applications require additional review under its risk mitigation and cost containment safeguards.
HRSA further indicated that it began distributing American Rescue Plan (ARP) Rural Payments on November 23, 2021. As of December 14, 2021, HRSA has indicated that it has processed approximately 96% of ARP applications. The ARP allocated a total of $8.5 billion to health care providers who serve rural Medicare, Medicaid and CHIP patients. HRSA indicated that it will distribute $7.5 billion of these funds in its initial distribution.
To the extent a provider was determined to be eligible for either a Phase 4 payment or an ARP Rural Payment, the provider will receive both an email notification and a paper letter with additional details on these payments. This will include the individual amounts attributed to any subsidiary TINs submitted as part of their application. To the extent HRSA determined that you were not eligible for a Phase 4 payment, the email notice will provide an explanation for why you were determined to be ineligible. These email notices will be sent to the email address provided in the Phase 4 application. Providers selected for additional review will receive email notification as soon as HRSA completes its review process, which it indicated would be completed in “early 2022.”
AAA members are encouraged to look for this email. If you have not received an email notification, we would suggest that you check your spam filter, as several of our members have indicated that the email was flagged as “spam” by their email system.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has filed for publication in the Federal Register the Solicitation of Nominations Notice for the Ground Ambulance and Patient Billing (GAPB) Advisory Committee. The Notice is scheduled to be included in the Federal Register for tomorrow, Tuesday, November 23.
The Congress created the GAPB Advisory Committee as part of The No Surprises Act enacted last year and currently being implemented by the Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor and the Treasury. The American Ambulance Association, International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians, and the National Volunteer Fire Council successfully advocated that the Congress take into consideration the unique characteristics of ground ambulance services when determining balance billing policy for our services. The Congress excluded ground ambulance services from the provisions of The No Surprises Act and created the GAPB Advisory Committee to address balance billing.
The AAA has identified candidates, including AAA President Baird, who we will be supporting for inclusion on the Advisory Committee who we believe are well-positioned to represent the AAA membership. Once formed, the Advisory Committee has 180 days in which to report its recommendations to the Congress. The directive of the Committee is to review options to “improve the disclosure of charges and fees for ground ambulance services, better inform consumers of insurance options for such services, and protect consumers from balance billing.” We will be keeping the AAA membership continually informed of the actions and deliberations of the GAPB Advisory Committee.
Should you have any questions regarding the GAPB Advisory Committee, please contact AAA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tristan North. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Recorded October 8, 2021 | Free to All | Speaker: Asbel Montes
The deadline for Provider Relief Fund (PRF) applications is 11:59 PM October 26, 2021. If your EMS agency has not yet applied for funds, the American Ambulance Association strongly encourages you to do so! We are happy to answer member questions, just email firstname.lastname@example.org. Remember, Amber cost data collection software (www.emsamber.com) access is included with your AAA membership and has a PRF module to help you with your application. If you are an AAA member and need help accessing Amber, email email@example.com. HRSA is also hosting a technical assistance webinar for PRF applications on October 13, 2021.
October 1, 2021
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Charles Schumer
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Schumer, Minority Leader McConnell & Minority Leader McCarthy,
Our paramedics and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), as well as the organizations that they serve, take on substantial risk every day to treat and transport patients that call 9-1-1. But our nation’s EMS system is facing a crippling workforce shortage, a long-term problem that has been building for more than a decade. It threatens to undermine our emergency 9-1-1 infrastructure and deserves urgent attention by the Congress.
The most sweeping survey of its kind — involving nearly 20,000 employees working at 258 EMS organizations — found that overall turnover among paramedics and EMTs ranges from 20 to 30 percent annually. With percentages that high, ambulance services face 100% turnover over a four- year period. Staffing shortages compromise our ability to respond to healthcare emergencies, especially in rural and underserved parts of the country.
The pandemic exacerbated this shortage and highlighted our need to better understand the drivers of workforce turnover. There are many factors. Our ambulance crews are suffering under the grind of surging demand, burnout, fear of getting sick and stresses on their families. In addition, with COVID-19 halting clinical and in-person trainings for a long period of time, our pipeline for staff is stretched even more.
The challenge is to make sure that the paramedics and EMTs of the future know that EMS is a rewarding destination. Many healthcare providers have extensive professional development resources, but that simply does not exist for EMS. COVID-19 has put additional pressures on the health care system and added another layer of complexity to the emergency response infrastructure.
HRSA EMS Training Funding
Fortunately, there are immediate and long-term solutions. Although the provider relief funds are essential and helpful to address the challenges of the pandemic, we need funding for EMS that addresses paramedic and EMT training, recruitment, and advancement more directly. The Congress can provide specific direction and funds to the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to help solve this workforce crisis. Those funds can be used to pay for critical training and professional development programs. Some of our members have already begun offering programs and would benefit from additional funding support from HRSA. Funding public-private partnerships between community colleges and private employers to increase the applicant pool and training and employment numbers through grants could overcome the staffing deficit we face.
Paramedic and EMT Direct Pay Bump
In addition, more immediately targeting funds for EMS retention could address the shortage we are experiencing day to day. To help ambulance services retain paramedics and EMTs, we request funds through HRSA to be paid directly to paramedics and EMTs. These earmarked funds could be distributed to each state with specific guidance that the State Offices of EMS distribute the funds to all ground ambulance services using a proportional formula (per field medic).
COVID-19 Medicare Reimbursement Increase
With capitated payments by federal payors, there are limited funds to transfer into workforce initiatives. Increasing Medicare payments temporarily would be meaningful to compete with other employers and other jobs. This could help infuse additional funds into the workforce and create innovative staffing models that take into account hospital bed shortages and overflow.
Congressional Hearings on EMS Workforce Shortage
The workforce shortage crisis facing EMS spans several potential Committees of jurisdiction. This critical shortage is particularly felt in many of our rural and underserved communities. As Congress moves on the steps we have outlined above, we also urge you to organize hearings in the appropriate Committees to develop long-term solutions and focus the country’s attention on these urgent issues.
Thank you in advance for continuing to ensure that our frontline responders have the resources necessary to continue caring for our patients in their greatest moment of need, while maintaining the long-term viability of our nation’s EMS system.
Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely,
American Ambulance Association
National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians