Congress Passes Ambulance Medicare Add-Ons

  It is my pleasure to share with you that—just minutes ago—Congress passed the 5 year extension of the Medicare ambulance add-ons. The extension was part of the two-year budget deal reached by congressional leaders and passed by the Senate early this morning and then shortly thereafter by the House. The ambulance provisions in the final deal differ from the provisions passed earlier this week by the House in one key area – the collection of ambulance cost data. This means that we are truly in the endzone of the add-on payment extension process. While we ask your continued patience as we jump through one last procedural hoop, I am confident that the add-ons will be back in effect as soon as the President signs the legislation. In today’s deeply divided political climate, I am proud of what we have accomplished through collaboration as an association and industry. Here are the specifics of the final package: 5 year extension of the ambulance Medicare add-ons through December 31, 2022, retroactive to January 1, 2018. AAA’s preferred method of Cost data collection that provides flexibility to the Secretary of HHS in developing the system. Consultation with the industry is required so that it (more…)

House Passes Ambulance Medicare Add-Ons

Moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation which includes a five-year extension of the Medicare ambulance add-ons. The House voted 245 to 182 to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government beyond the current expiration date of February 8. The CR included a package of Medicare provider extenders including an extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance add-ons. The ambulance provisions in the CR include the following: A five-year extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance increases of 2% urban and 3% rural to base and mileage rates and 22.6% to the base rate in super rural areas. The extension would be retroactive to January 1, 2018 and expire on December 31, 2022. The requirement for ambulance service suppliers to submit cost reports. The language is based on H.R. 3729 as reported by the House Ways and Means Committee but with new language providing the CMS Administrator with the discretion to apply a payment suspension or overpayment as the penalty for suppliers that do not submit timely, accurate and complete data after the initial two years. To offset the cost of the add-ons extension, a further reduction of 13% in Medicare reimbursement for BLS non-emergency transports to (more…)

President’s Perspective: January 2018

Dear Fellow AAA Members, Happy New Year from the American Ambulance Association! This year promises to bring new challenges and opportunities for ambulance services. As your association, AAA, its experts, and the whole member community will be there to support you every step of the way. Advocacy Update If you’ve missed your recent member advocacy emails, you may be wondering “What is going on with the add-ons?!” I’d like to address this first and foremost. Despite the best efforts of the American Ambulance Association and other industry stakeholders, the temporary Medicare ambulance increases expired December 31. However, please rest assured that the AAA lobbying team, volunteer leadership, and staff are working tirelessly around-the-clock to advocate for this critical EMS revenue. The good news is that the end may be in sight. However, we must remain engaged, active, and unified as an industry to carry this effort through in the face of the today’s contentious and unpredictable political climate. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate are working toward a long-term extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  As part of these negotiations, the House and Senate are working through the details of a Medicare provider extender package. Thanks...

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Medicare Extender Update

As president of your association, keeping you informed of our advocacy efforts is one of my top priorities. In keeping with this approach, I would like to share with you an update on the American Ambulance Association’s latest efforts on Capitol Hill. The temporary Medicare ambulance increases are currently scheduled to expire on December 31, 2017. And once again, Congress is waiting until the last minute to extend them. Thankfully, a long-term solution is on the horizon. The House and Senate are in the process of negotiating the details of a Medicare provider extender package including our ambulance provisions. The House and Senate positions both include a five-year extension of the 2% urban, 3% rural, and super rural increases. Where their positions differ reflects the respective preferences of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees on how best to collect cost data from ambulance services suppliers and providers. The Senate position is based on a Senate Finance Committee Discussion Draft from October 26 which includes the five-year extension of the increases as well as a data collection system based on the one from the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act (S. 967). The provision would direct...

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POTUS Signs DEA Standing Orders Bill into Law

On Friday, President Trump signed H.R. 304, the Protecting Patient Access to Emergency Medications Act of 2017, into law. H.R. 304 also known as the DEA Standing Orders Bill is an issue that the AAA has been working on closely for over a year. This new law will “improve the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) registration process for emergency medical services (EMS) agencies, and clarify that EMS professionals are permitted to administer controlled substances pursuant to standing or verbal orders when certain conditions are met.” On the passage of H.R. 304, AAA President Mark Postma stated: “the enactment of H.R. 304 ensures that paramedics, EMTs and other emergency medical professionals may continue to administer vital and often life-saving medications to patients. The AAA applauds Congressmen Hudson and Butterfield and Senators Cassidy and Bennet for their successful efforts on this critical issue.” Special thanks to Rep. Hudson (R-NC-08) for authoring the Bill, and to Rep. Butterfield (D-NC-01), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) for sponsoring this legislation. Additional thanks to Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR-2) for his continued support. H.R. 304 will help to ensure that ambulance service providers are able to continue providing life saving services throughout the country. The AAA would (more…)

Senate Committee Draft Package with 5-year Ambulance Extender

Senate Committee Releases Draft Package with 5-year Ambulance Extender The Senate Finance Committee has released a discussion draft of its Medicare provider extender package. A five-year extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance add-ons and a modified version of the cost data collection provision from the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act (S. 967) are included in the package. The ambulance provisions being part of the package marks significant progress in the Senate toward a long-term extension of the add-ons and a model cost data collection system. A five-year extension of the 2% urban and 3% increases and the super rural bonus payment would provide approximately $1 billion in desperately needed Medicare relief for our industry. Having the increases in place for five years would give ambulance service suppliers and providers greater funding stability and help with long-term budgeting. There are now proposals in both the House and Senate with Committee backing which reflect a five-year extension of the add-ons. The five-year extension reflects the efforts of our champions in the Senate on S. 967. The cost data collection system is also from S. 967 with modifications. Instead of a random sampling of ambulance service providers and suppliers a (more…)

President’s Perspective: October 2017

Dear Fellow AAA Members, As I reflect on the past few months, I am awed by the dedication of ambulance services across the nation as they responded to emergencies ranging from hurricanes to wildfires to the Las Vegas MCI. As always, EMS aided their communities with humanity, efficiency, and deep-rooted professionalism. The outcomes of each of these incidents would assuredly have been far worse without the selfless service of our fellow healthcare providers. I was privileged to see this commitment to excellence firsthand as our staff at Sunstar responded to Hurricane Maria here in Florida, assisted by hundreds of EMTs, Paramedics, and strike team leaders who drove hours or days to help. Thanks to each of you for your service in our country’s time of need. Advocacy Update The AAA continues working hard to ensure the Medicare add-on payments don’t expire at the end of this year. In the Senate, S. 967 would make the add-on payments permanent. In the House, two versions of a bill (H.R. 3236, H.R. 3729) would extend the payments for five years. Extensions of Medicare provider provisions, including the ambulance add-on payments, will likely be addressed closer to the end of the year. We have...

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Time to handle 911 call demands with Paramedics

When discussing this new and growing field of pre-hospital care, there seems to be two unique paths that services are following. The first is the hospital-owned or contracted service, where community providers seek ways to decrease readmission rates for CHF, COPD, Pneumonia, Sepsis, MI and other chronic illnesses. When a patient discharged with one of these targeted conditions is readmitted within a 30 day window, “hospitals face penalties of up to 3 percent of Medicare payments in 2018” (Gluck, 2017, para. 10). That is a lot of money. Consider, “Lee Health, Southwest Florida’s largest hospital operator, which is expected to lose $3.4 million in payments” (Gluck, 2017, para. 2). This model represents the if, or, and type of service, meaning if we can do it for less and there are providers willing to do this type of medicine, then we can save the expensive penalties from CMC. The other model of community paramedicine is 911 abuse reduction. For years EMS has conditioned the public to call 911 for any emergency. But today, what we consider an emergency is far from the public’s perception of an emergency. “EMS has experienced a 37% increase in 911 calls since 2008.” (White, 2016, para. (more…)