AAA 2022 Legislative Priorities

Yesterday, the American Ambulance Association Board of Directors approved the Association’s advocacy priorities for 2022. Our key initiatives reflect the challenges we face this year, including short-sighted threats to EMS balance billing, a worsening workforce shortage, the expiration of the temporary Medicare increases, and potential sequestration cuts.

We also continue to fight for you as you care for people first on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will sustain our efforts at securing additional funding for ground ambulance services to help address the increased costs of providing medical care and transport during the Public Health Emergency.

To achieve our collective goals, the AAA Board will need to mobilize the full voice of influence of the EMS community this year. If you have not already sent an email using the AAA advocacy system to your members of Congress, please do so today!

Staff will be reaching out to you at key points later in the year about letter writing for specific individual policy requests. But it is important that they hear from you now on all the top issues for ground ambulance services.  They are:

Top AAA Advocacy Priorities for 2022

EMS Workforce Shortage

With the persistent shortage of ground ambulance service field personnel raising to a crisis level with the COVID-19 pandemic, the AAA moved the issue to a top policy priority. The AAA is currently working with key Congressional Committees of jurisdiction to hold hearings on the EMS workforce shortage. We are also developing legislation to specifically target increasing access for ground ambulance service organizations to federal programs and funding for the retention and training of health care personnel.

Balance Billing

The AAA successfully educated the Congress on the role of local government oversight and other unique characteristics of providing ground ambulance service organizations. As a result, the Congress directed the establishment of a Ground Ambulance and Balance Billing Advisory Committee to address the issue. The Committee is in the process of being formed and then has 180 days in which to make recommendations to the Congress. The AAA will be involved with the Committee and advocating that the Congress implement policies that meet the needs of our members.

Additional COVID-19 Financial Assistance

The AAA is advocating for additional financial assistance for ground ambulance service organizations to help address the increased costs of labor and other higher costs associated with providing health care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Medicare Ambulance Relief

The temporary Medicare ambulance increases of 2% urban, 3% rural and the super rural bonus payment expire at the end of the year. The AAA will continue to push for passage of the provisions of the Preserving Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act (S. 2037, H.R. 2454) before the provisions expire as well as for the adoption of language to ensure truly rural areas remain rural following changes to geographical designations based on the 2020 census.

Sequestration Cuts

The Congress delayed the additional 4% sequestration cut for only one yea. The AAA is working with other EMS and health care provider and supplier groups to permanently prevent the cut from going into effect as well as further extending the moratorium on the long-standing 2% cut.

Ambulance Cost Data Collection

With the 2-year delay of ambulance data collection due to the pandemic, the Medicare Payment Advisory Committee (MedPAC) will have little to no data to analyze in March 2023 in which to make recommendations to the Congress on Medicare ambulance payment policy and rates. The AAA is asking the Congress to push back the date of the MedPAC report and also expand the modified data collection timeline of two years to the intended four years.

On behalf of my fellow board members, I again thank you for your continued membership and participation. We look forward to serving you for many years to come.

We also encourage all of our AAA members to contact their members of Congress through our online advocacy tool. 

Should you have any questions regarding our advocacy priorities, please contact AAA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tristan North at tnorth@ambulance.org.

TODAY | CCIIO Open Door Forum No Surprises Act

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight

Special Open Door Forum: Provider Requirements under the No Surprises Act
Wednesday December 8, 2021 | 2:00-3:00 pm Eastern Time
Conference Call Only
Participant Dial-In Number: 1-888-455-1397
Conference ID #: 8604468

 

The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) and the CMS Office of Communication will host an orientation to provider requirements under the No Surprises Act.

Starting January 1, 2022, consumers will have new billing protections when getting emergency care, non-emergency care from out-of-network providers at in-network facilities, and air ambulance services from out-of-network providers. Through new rules aimed to protect consumers, excessive out-of-pocket costs will be restricted, and emergency services must continue to be covered without any prior authorization, and regardless of whether or not a provider or facility is in-network.

On July 1, 2021, the “Requirements Related to Surprise Billing; Part I,” interim final rule was issued to restrict surprise billing for patients in job-based and individual health plans who get emergency care, non-emergency care from out-of-network providers at in-network facilities, and air ambulance services from out-of-network providers.

On September 30, 2021, a second interim final rule was issued and is open for public comment. The “Requirements Related to Surprise Billing; Part II” rule provides additional protections against surprise medical bills, including:

  • Establishing an independent dispute resolution process to determine out-of-network payment amounts between providers (including air ambulance providers) or facilities and health plans.
  • Requiring good-faith estimates of medical items or services for uninsured (or self-paying) individuals.
  • Establishing a patient-provider dispute resolution process for uninsured (or self-paying) individuals to determine payment amounts due to a provider or facility under certain circumstances.
  • Providing a way to appeal certain health plan decisions.

Together, these lay the groundwork to provide consumers with protection against surprise billing, starting in 2022. Learn more about how these rules help consumers.

Here is the link to our No Surprises page that has the slides: https://www.cms.gov/nosurprises/Policies-and-Resources/Provider-requirements-and-resources

We look forward to your participation.

Special Open Door Participation Instructions:

Participant Dial-In Number: 1-888-455-1397

Conference ID #: 8604468

Note: TTY Communications Relay Services are available for the Hearing Impaired. For TTY services dial 7-1-1 or 1-800-855-2880. A Relay Communications Assistant will help. 

A transcript and audio recording of this Special ODF will be posted to the Podcast and Transcripts website at https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Outreach/OpenDoorForums/PodcastAndTranscripts.html for downloading.

For automatic emails of Open Door Forum schedule updates (E-Mailing list subscriptions) and to view Frequently Asked Questions please visit our website at http://www.cms.gov/OpenDoorForums/.

Thank you for your interest in CMS Open Door Forums.

CCIIO Open Door Forum No Surprises Act

From CMS on December 3, 2021

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight

Special Open Door Forum: Provider Requirements under the No Surprises Act
Wednesday December 8, 2021 | 2:00-3:00 pm Eastern Time
Conference Call Only
Participant Dial-In Number: 1-888-455-1397
Conference ID #: 8604468

 

The Center for Consumer Information and Insurance Oversight (CCIIO) and the CMS Office of Communication will host an orientation to provider requirements under the No Surprises Act.

Starting January 1, 2022, consumers will have new billing protections when getting emergency care, non-emergency care from out-of-network providers at in-network facilities, and air ambulance services from out-of-network providers. Through new rules aimed to protect consumers, excessive out-of-pocket costs will be restricted, and emergency services must continue to be covered without any prior authorization, and regardless of whether or not a provider or facility is in-network.

On July 1, 2021, the “Requirements Related to Surprise Billing; Part I,” interim final rule was issued to restrict surprise billing for patients in job-based and individual health plans who get emergency care, non-emergency care from out-of-network providers at in-network facilities, and air ambulance services from out-of-network providers.

On September 30, 2021, a second interim final rule was issued and is open for public comment. The “Requirements Related to Surprise Billing; Part II” rule provides additional protections against surprise medical bills, including:

  • Establishing an independent dispute resolution process to determine out-of-network payment amounts between providers (including air ambulance providers) or facilities and health plans.
  • Requiring good-faith estimates of medical items or services for uninsured (or self-paying) individuals.
  • Establishing a patient-provider dispute resolution process for uninsured (or self-paying) individuals to determine payment amounts due to a provider or facility under certain circumstances.
  • Providing a way to appeal certain health plan decisions.

Together, these lay the groundwork to provide consumers with protection against surprise billing, starting in 2022. Learn more about how these rules help consumers.

Here is the link to our No Surprises page that has the slides: https://www.cms.gov/nosurprises/Policies-and-Resources/Provider-requirements-and-resources

We look forward to your participation.

Special Open Door Participation Instructions:

Participant Dial-In Number: 1-888-455-1397

Conference ID #: 8604468

Note: TTY Communications Relay Services are available for the Hearing Impaired. For TTY services dial 7-1-1 or 1-800-855-2880. A Relay Communications Assistant will help. 

A transcript and audio recording of this Special ODF will be posted to the Podcast and Transcripts website at https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Outreach/OpenDoorForums/PodcastAndTranscripts.html for downloading.

For automatic emails of Open Door Forum schedule updates (E-Mailing list subscriptions) and to view Frequently Asked Questions please visit our website at http://www.cms.gov/OpenDoorForums/.

Thank you for your interest in CMS Open Door Forums.

Call to Action: Write Your Members of Congress Today!

Our nation’s EMS infrastructure is at risk. Ground ambulance service organizations are facing a financial crisis due to the lack of adequate reimbursement for their services and a crippling shortage of paramedics and EMTs. If Congress does not act soon, the situation will become worse with an additional 4% sequestration cut for all Medicare providers and suppliers including for ground ambulance services. Our nation’s 9-1-1 EMS infrastructure is at risk.

Place follow the link below to contact your members of Congress and ask that they protect ground emergency and non-emergency ambulance services in our communities.

Contact your Members of Congress

It’s Time for EMS to Apply for HHS Provider Relief Fund Tranche 4!

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 hello@ambulance.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 shilker@ambulance.org. HRSA is also hosting a technical assistance webinar for PRF applications on October 13, 2021.

Congressional Letter on the EMS Workforce Shortage

October 1, 2021

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Charles Schumer
Majority Leader
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader
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,

Shawn Baird
President
American Ambulance Association

Bruce Evans
President
National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians

Application Open: COVID-19 Provider Relief Funding

From HHS on September 29, 2021

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), has announced a new application cycle for $25.5 billion in COVID-19 provider funding. Applicants will be able to apply for both Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 and American Rescue Plan (ARP) Rural payments during the application process. PRF Phase 4 is open to a broad range of providers with changes in operating revenues and expenses. ARP Rural is open to providers who serve rural patients covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
See a detailed list of eligible provider types here.
The application is open now and will close on October 26, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. ET. Providers who have previously created an account in the Provider Relief Fund Application and Attestation Portal and have not logged in for more than 90 days will need to first reset their password before starting a new application. In order to streamline the application process and minimize administrative burdens, providers will apply for both programs in a single application.
HHS recently hosted a briefing session to provide information about these upcoming funding opportunities – view the video here. HRSA will also host webinar sessions featuring guidance on how to navigate the application portal. Register now using the links below.
  • Thursday, September 30 from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Tuesday, October 5 from 3:00 – 4:00 p.m. ET
  • Two additional webinars the weeks of October 11th and 18th (dates, times, and registration forthcoming)
 
Real time technical assistance is available by calling the Provider Support Line at (866) 569-3522, for TTY dial 711. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. CT, Monday through Friday.

HHS PRF Tranche 4 | Important Funding Opportunity for EMS Providers


Speaker: Scott Moore, Esq. | Share on Facebook
This funding opportunity will distribute $25.5 billion in additional Phase 4 General Distribution for EMS agencies and American Rescue Plan (ARP) payments for qualified rural providers who furnish services to Medicaid/CHIP and Medicare beneficiaries. It is critical for all #EMS providers to apply for this funding opportunity regardless of previous funding allocations. We have learned that many EMS providers did not apply for the Tranche 3 funding opportunity because they did not believe that they would be eligible to receive funds under the announced funding formula. Due to the limited number of applicants in Tranche 3, HRSA modified the formula and many who failed to apply would have received funds. We are recommending that all EMS agencies apply to receive the funding that they desperately need. The deadline for applying is 11:59 p.m. on October 26, 2021. There is no penalty for applying.

HHS: Availability of Add’l $25.5 Billion in COVID-19 Provider Funding

HHS Announces the Availability of $25.5 Billion in COVID-19 Provider Funding

This morning the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that it will be making $25.5 billion in new funding available for healthcare providers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding, available through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will include $8.5 billion in American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) resources for providers who serve rural Medicaid, Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), or Medicare patients, and an additional $17 billion for Provider Relief Fund (PRF) Phase 4 for a broad range of providers who can document revenue loss and expenses associated with the pandemic.

Getting additional financial relief for ground ambulance service providers who are still struggling from the lost revenue and increased expenditures resulting from being on the frontlines of responding to the pandemic has been a top priority for the AAA. The AAA along with the International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Firefighters, National Associations of EMTs and National Volunteer Fire Association have continually pressed HHS to release the remaining funds. We strongly encourage all AAA members to submit an application regardless of whether you have applied for previous rounds of funding.

Consistent with the requirements included in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2020, PRF Phase 4 payments will be based on providers’ lost revenues and expenditures between July 1, 2020, and March 31, 2021 (Q3 – Q4 2020 and Q1 2021). The PRF Phase 4 will reimburse smaller providers, who tend to operate on thin margins and often serve vulnerable or isolated communities, for their lost revenues and COVID-19 expenses at a higher rate compared to larger providers. PRF Phase 4 will also include bonus payments for providers who serve Medicaid, CHIP, and/or Medicare patients, who tend to be lower- income and have greater and more complex medical needs. HRSA will price these bonus payments at the generally higher Medicare rates to ensure equity for those serving low-income children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and seniors.

Consistent with the focus of the ARPA, HRSA will make ARPA rural payments to providers based on the amount of Medicaid, CHIP, and/or Medicare services they provide to patients who live in rural areas as defined by the HHS Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. As rural providers serve a disproportionate number of Medicaid and CHIP patients who often have disproportionately greater and more complex medical needs, many rural communities have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. Accordingly, ARP rural payments will also generally be based on Medicare reimbursement rates.

In the announcement, HHS stated that it would “expedite and streamline” the application process and minimize administrative burdens, providers will apply for both programs in a single application. HRSA will use existing Medicaid, CHIP and Medicare claims data in calculating payments. The application portal will open on September 29, 2021. HHS has stated that to ensure that these provider relief funds are used for patient care, PRF recipients will be required to notify the HHS Secretary of any merger with, or acquisition of, another health care provider during the period in which they can use the payments. They have stated that providers who report a merger or acquisition may be more likely to be audited to confirm their funds were used for coronavirus-related costs.

To promote transparency in the PRF program, HHS also released detailed information about the methodology utilized to calculate PRF Phase 3 payments. Providers who believe their PRF Phase 3 payment was not calculated correctly according to this methodology will now have an opportunity to request a reconsideration. HHS announced that additional details on the PRF Phase 3 reconsideration process will be released at a later date.

In addition, many of you attended the PRF Reporting Q&A AAA webinar yesterday with Asbel Montes, Brian Werfel, and Scott Moore.  HHS has acknowledged the challenges facing many providers across the country due to recent natural disasters and the Delta variant, HHS announced a final 60-day grace period to help providers come into compliance with their PRF Reporting requirements if they fail to meet the deadline on September 30, 2021. While the deadlines to use funds and the Reporting Time Period will not change, HHS will not initiate collection activities or similar enforcement actions for non-compliant providers during this grace period.

Members can access more information about eligibility requirements, the documents and information providers will need to complete their application, and the application process for PRF Phase 4 and ARP Rural payments by visiting the HRSA website.

The combined application for American Rescue Plan rural funding and Provider Relief Fund Phase 4 will open on September 29, 2021.  Like we have done with the previous rounds of HHS funding, we encourage all ambulance service providers to submit an application for this Phase 4 funding.  If you have questions regarding this or any COVID-19 related questions, please contact hello@ambulance.org.

Provider Relief Fund Reporting Requirement Deadline is Approaching

The American Ambulance Association wants to remind our members that the deadline to submit your initial report on your use of HHS Provider Relief Funds is fast approaching.  Any ambulance provider or supplier that received more than $10,000 in aggregate funds from the first two rounds of General Distribution funding will need to submit a report on their use of such funds by September 30, 2021.  This initial report will detail the expenditure of PRF funds through June 30, 2021.

Relevant Background

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.  An additional $75 billion was allocated as part of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, with subsequent legislation adding further amounts to this fund.  In total, the Provider Relief Fund (PRF) will distribute $178 billion to health care providers and suppliers to fund healthcare-related expenses or to offset lost revenue attributable to COVID-10.

To date, HHS has distributed approximately $148.4 billion through three rounds of General Distribution funds ($92.5 billion) and multiple smaller Targeted Distributions.  A portion of the PRF is also being used to reimburse health care providers for the costs of testing, treating, and vaccinating the uninsured.

Summary of Final Reporting Requirements

On June 11, 2021, HHS issued its final PRF Reporting Requirements.  Under these new guidelines, health care providers will be required to report for any “Payment Received Period” in which they received one or more PRF payments that, in the aggregate, exceed $10,000.  Providers meeting this threshold for any Payment Received Period will report on their use of such funds during the corresponding “Reporting Time Period.”

The following table sets forth the applicable Payment Received Periods and corresponding Reporting Time Periods.  The table also sets forth the deadline to use funds received within each Payment Receiving Period.

 

Period Payment Received Period Deadline for use of Funds Reporting Time Period
1 April 10, 2020 – June 30, 2020 June 30, 2021 July 1, 2021 – September 30, 2021
2 July 1, 2020 – December 31, 2020 December 31, 2021 January 1, 2022 – March 31, 2022
3 January 1, 2021 – June 30, 2021 June 30, 2022 July 1, 2022 – September 30, 2022
4 July 1, 2021 – December 31, 2021 December 31, 2022 January 1, 2023 – March 31, 2023

 

PRF payments received in the first two rounds of General Distribution funding will fall within the first reporting period.  PRF payments received in the third round of General Distribution funding will fall within either the second or third reporting periods, depending on when the funds were actually received.

As a result, ambulance providers and suppliers that received more than $10,000 in the aggregate from the first two rounds of General Distribution funding will need to submit an initial report during the 90-day period starting on July 1, 2021.  This initial report will detail all expenditures of PRF funds through June 30, 2021.

Ambulance providers and suppliers that received between $10,001 and $499,999 in aggregated PRF funds during each Payment Received Period are required to report on their use of such funds in two categories: (1) General and Administrative Expenses and (2) Health Care Related Expenses.  Ambulance providers and suppliers that received $500,000 or more in aggregated PRF funds during each Payment Received Period will be required to submit more detailed information for each of these general categories.

Specific Instructions Related to Reporting of Lost Revenues

The American Ambulance Association has received numerous questions from members regarding the appropriate methodology to report lost revenues attributable to the coronavirus.  Specifically, many members have inquired as to the appropriate methodology for calculating their lost revenues.

HHS has indicated that health care providers must report their lost revenues using one of three methodologies:

  1. The difference between actual patient care revenues;
  2. The difference between budgeted patient care revenues and actual patient care revenues; or
  3. An alternative methodology selected by the provider for estimating lost revenues.

Based on HHS guidance, it appears that the default methodology is to measure the difference between actual patient care revenues for each calendar quarter during the applicable period.  The provider will also be asked to further break down patient care revenues by applicable payer.  In basic terms, the first methodology will compare: (i) your actual calendar year 2019 patient care revenues to (ii) your actual calendar year 2020 patient care revenues.  The A.A.A. suggests that all members start by conducting this basic revenue analysis.  To the extent your lost revenues in 2020 equal or exceed (in combination with your increased expenses, if any) the total PRF funds received during the first Payment Received Period, no additional revenue analysis is required. 

In some instances, you may find that your actual revenue losses for calendar year 2020 do not fully offset the PRF funds received during the First Payment Received Period.  In that event, it may be beneficial to conduct a separate revenue analysis using the budgeted vs. actual methodology.  Note: you are only eligible to use this methodology to the extent you had a formal budget approved prior to March 27, 2020. 

This methodology is likely to be beneficial to ambulance providers or suppliers that, pre-pandemic, were projecting significant revenue growth in calendar year 2020.  For example, consider the case of a hypothetical “ABC Ambulance Service, Inc.”  ABC Ambulance had $1 million in patient care revenues in calendar year 2019.  However, in November 2019, the company signed an agreement to be the preferred provider of a major hospital system in its service area.  As a result, the company was projecting significant revenue growth in calendar year 2020.  Specifically, when it created its 2020 budget in December 2019, it projected that its patient care revenues would rise to $1.5 million in 2020.

When the pandemic hit in mid-March 2020, the company saw a significant slowdown in its transport volume.  Like many ambulance providers, it saw its transport volume rebound somewhat in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2020.  As a result, it ended the year with $1.2 million in patient care revenues.

A revenue analysis using the default methodology would show an increase in revenues, i.e., its revenues increased by $200,000 over 2019.  However, its 2020 actual revenues were $300,000 less than it projected in its 2020 budget.  Using this second methodology, the company would be able to claim $300,000 in lost revenues to offset against its PRF funds.

Please note that any ambulance provider or supplier using this second methodology will be required to submit additional documentation with its initial PRF report.  Specifically, you will be required to submit a copy of the 2020 budget relied upon to show the lost revenue, together with an attestation from its CEO, CFO, or other authorized official attesting to the fact that this budget was formally established prior to March 27, 2020.

HHS will also permit ambulance providers or suppliers to utilize an alternative methodology created by the entity for calculating their lost revenues.  However, to utilize an alternative methodology, the provider or supplier will be required to submit additional documentation explaining not only the methodology, but also the justification for why this methodology was reasonable.  HHS has indicated that providers or suppliers electing to use an alternative methodology will face an increased risk of audit.  As a good rule of thumb, the use of an alternative methodology is likely to limited to situations where the EMS agency’s business is extremely seasonal, or where there was some major change in their operations during the 2020 calendar year (e.g., a partial sale of the company, a large acquisition, etc.).

Further Information Related to PRF Reporting

HHS updated its instructions for how ambulance providers and suppliers should complete their PRF Reporting obligations.  These updated instructions start on Page 4 of the Revised Reporting Requirements.

HHS also recently updated its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) associated with the PRF Reporting Program.

 

 

Letter to Senate HELP Committee Leadership on Provider-Type Equity

The Honorable Patty Murray
Chair, United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

The Honorable Richard Burr
Ranking Member
United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions

Dear Chairwoman Murray and Ranking Member Burr:

The American Ambulance Association (AAA) appreciates the opportunity to provide suggestions for bipartisan legislation to improve medical preparedness and response programs. The AAA is the primary association for ground ambulance service suppliers/providers, including governmental entities, volunteer services, private for-profit, private not-for-profit, and hospital-based ambulance services. Our members provide emergency and non-emergency medical transportation services to more than 75 percent of the U.S. population. AAA members serve patients in all 50 states and provide services in urban, rural, and super-rural areas. As the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration identified in its 2013 report on emergency services, EMS-only systems – such as our members – provide the vast majority of emergency ambulance services throughout America.

Our members are often the first health care teams to encounter patients who are sick and/or suspect they might have COVID-19. In addition to responding to 911 emergencies and transporting patients to appropriate destinations, they are also being asked to provide health care services within their existing State-defined scope of practice without transporting patients to help reduce hospital surge, as well as to protect high-risk patients from potential exposure to COVID-19. State and Local governments and public health authorities are also enlisting ground ambulance organizations to assist with testing suspected COVID-19 patients. In addition, ground ambulances provide important medical transitional care for patients moving between facilities in both emergency and non-emergency situations.

During this pandemic, our members have experienced first-hand the gaps in the public health infrastructure and the medical preparedness and response systems and programs. One of the most frustrating aspects of the current system has been the lack of recognition and support for communities that contract with non-governmental ground ambulance providers/suppliers in everything from federal grant programs to the distribution of personal protective equipment for EMTs and paramedics.

Many of the federal grant programs triggered during the pandemic have fallen short of their promise because the statutes and regulations governing them do not recognize non-governmental ground ambulance providers/suppliers as eligible entities. This distinction remains confusing because in other areas of health care, federal grant programs are accessible by private, for-profit health care providers and suppliers.

Outdated statutes and regulations often assume that first responders are governmental or not-for-profit entities and ignore the decisions of State and Local governments to contract with private ground ambulance providers/suppliers to provide 911 or equivalent services. As others have recognized, “State and Local officials know what works best in their communities – what works best in New York City may be much different than what works in rural Tennessee.”1 The federal government should respect these local decisions and support all first responders.

An example of this problem arose early during the COVID-19 pandemic. The FEMA public assistance grant program reimburses first responders for PPE and other expenses related to the response to COVID-19. When public and private non-profit emergency ambulance providers/suppliers sought direct reimbursement under the program, they were turned away. Private emergency ambulance providers/suppliers were required to have a State or Local government agency apply on their behalf. As State and Local governments responded to the public health emergency, it was understandably difficult for them to allocate resources to work through the application process on behalf of their contractors.

This differential treatment impacts communities across the United States, including those in Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Wisconsin, among others.

In contrast to statutes like the one government FEMA allocations, the Homeland Security Act of 2002 (6 U.S.C. § 101) includes language that recognizes the decision of State and Local governments to contract with private not-for-profit and for-profit ground ambulance providers/suppliers within the definition of “emergency response providers.”

The AAA urges the Congress to adopt the Homeland Security Act definition of “emergency response providers” throughout the U.S. Code as applicable. Such language will help to make sure that when funding is available to help State and Local governments prepare and respond, the allocation mechanisms governing the funding permit all types of first responders, including non-governmental ground ambulance providers/suppliers, to access the dollars quickly and with minimal burden.

Recommendation

The Committee should carefully review federal public health programs and revise them as necessary to ensure that the funds may be used to support both non-governmental and governmental ground ambulance providers/suppliers to ensure that all communities, regardless of their individual decisions related to the entities operating their EMS systems, have federal funds to support their response efforts during public health emergencies.

On behalf of the AAA, I want to thank you for your ongoing support of EMS and ground ambulance providers/suppliers, as well as the leadership demonstrated by your work to prepare for the next pandemic. Over the years, the Congress has consistently recognized the vital and unique role that ground ambulance providers/suppliers play in protecting their communities and providing mobile health care services. In light of the lessons learned during this pandemic, we encourage you and your colleagues to revise antiquated language that no longer represents the innovations and progress that have led to State and Local governments to rely upon ground ambulance providers/suppliers, including non-governmental organizations.

The AAA and its volunteer leaders would welcome the chance to discuss this recommendation. We would also be pleased to participate in any fact-finding discussion or hearing that the Congress plans to host to better understand how the problems experienced during the current pandemic can be avoided in the future. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Tristan North at (202) 486-4888 or tnorth@ambulance.org, or Kathy Lester at (202) 534-1773 or klester@lesterhealthlaw.com to schedule a time for further discussion.

Sincerely,

Shawn Baird
President, American Ambulance Association
Vice President of Rural Services, Metro West Ambulance

1The Honorable Lamar Alexander, “Preparing for the Next Pandemic” White Paper” 4 (June 9, 2020).

EMS Balance Billing Quick Take—July 7, 2021

Webinar July 7, 2021 | 13:00–13:30 ET | Free to AAA Members
Speakers: Kathy Lester, Esq. & Asbel Montes

On July 1, CMS issued a proposed rule on Surprise Billing which applies to those providers and physicians identified in the No Surprises Act. This statute subjected ground ambulance suppliers to an HHS Advisory Committee process prior to any rulemaking addressing these services.

The consultants and staff of the American Ambulance Association are doing a deep dive into the 400+ page rule and evaluating its nuances. We continue to understand from our conversations that ground ambulances are not included and instead are subjected to the Advisory Committee.

The American Ambulance Association will soon provide a summary to members, and will address any confusion with the Administration. Join AAA for a quick take live webinar on July 7 at 13:00 ET to learn more!

Register Now