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 CMS to collect data from a statistically significant number of ambulance service suppliers and providers. This would occur each year for the first three years, then a minimum of every three years thereafter. The penalty for not reporting data if selected would be a 10% cut in Medicare reimbursement for the following year. The language gives CMS flexibility in designing the system, and would place minimal burden on small ambulance service suppliers. The outcome would be usable data to further substantiate the need for rate increases and reform of the Medicare ambulance fee schedule.

The House position is based on H.R. 3729, which also includes the five-year extension of the increases. However, it adds mandatory annual cost reporting for ambulance service suppliers and providers as well. The AAA worked with the bill sponsors and Committee staff to modify the cost reporting language to reflect the unique nature of our industry. However, since ambulance service suppliers and providers aren’t paid based on cost reports, and cost reporting requirements are very stringent, there are several compatibility issues when attempting to apply this model to our industry. The primary problem is the penalty for not reporting timely data, as well as a new standard requiring the data to be accurate and complete. As a result, after the first two years of reporting, the penalty of an overpayment for not reporting timely, accurate, and complete data could be an entire year of Medicare payments. The AAA therefore prefers the Senate language due to its flexibility for our industry as well as its less severe penalty.

The good news is that the House and Senate are in agreement on a five-year extension of the increases. As part of the increase package, our industry will also have a data collection system to demonstrate that we are reimbursed below cost, and to make data-driven decisions on reforming the Medicare ambulance fee schedule. However, it is critical that we get the data collection provision right so that it provides useful information and is not overly burdensome for our members.

Thanks to our champions on Capitol Hill, member advocates, and our lobbying team, the super rural bonus payment has been in effect since 2003, and the urban and rural increases since 2008. Subsequently, we have successfully advocated for Congress to extend the increases eight times, including the current 33-month extension. However, with Congress pressed to address a number of priorities by the end of this year, a Medicare extenders package may not occur until early January.

Securing a five-year extension will require the action of our entire membership. I urge you to please write your members of Congress today in support of the Medicare ambulance increases!

Contact your members of Congress now>

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 like to thank NAEMSP for spearheading this effort as well as NAEMT, ACEP, ENA, IAFF, and the IAFC for their hard work and dedication to this issue.

View the full Energy & Commerce press release. Rep. Hudson’s statement on the Bill.

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 minimum of every three years, the sampling would occur each year for three years than a minimum of every three years. Also, in place of a 5% penalty in Medicare reimbursement for not submitting cost data if selected to report data, the penalty would be 10%. There is a hardship clause within the draft for CMS to work with ambulance service suppliers to ensure they are not penalized. The provision is also streamlined from the version introduced in S. 967.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as champions of S. 967 and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on getting the ambulance provisions into the draft. We also thank Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) as Chairman and Ranking Member respectively of the Senate Finance Committee for their support.

While the discussion draft includes the five-year extension of Medicare ambulance add-ons and cost data collection provisions, there is still a long way to go. If your Senators are not already cosponsors of S. 967, please reach out to them today and ask they cosponsor the bill. Write to your Senators using the AAA online letter writing tool below, or go to:  https://ambulance.org/advocacy/


Ask your Senators to Support S.967 – 2017 Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act

The current 33-month extension of the Medicare add-on payments is set to expire at the end of December 2017. Losing these add-on payments would be a devastating blow to ambulance services across the country. It is crucial that the payments be made permanent as we push for a long-term solution. More details about the Bill can be found below. Let your Senators know that you support S. 967 — Here are three quick and easy ways to get involved!

Writing to your members of Congress only takes 2 clicks, follow these simple steps:

1. Enter contact information below (required by Congressional offices) and click “Submit”
2. On the next page you’ll see the letter(s) to your Senators – click “Submit Messages”

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 seen progress already in the House on the ambulance add-ons. On September 11, the House Ways and Means Committee marked up H.R. 3729, the Comprehensive Operations, Sustainability, and Transport Act of 2017. Similar to H.R. 3236, which the AAA supports, H.R. 3729 would extend the Medicare add-on payments for five years and require ambulance service suppliers to report cost data. However, H.R. 3729 would subject suppliers to an overpayment penalty which could potentially put all Medicare payments at risk for a supplier who does not submit timely, accurate, and complete data.

H.R. 3729 also includes a 22% across-the-board cut to all ambulance providers and suppliers for non-emergency BLS transports to and from dialysis centers. The 22% cut was the figure estimated as necessary to offset the cost of the five-year extension of the add-on payments. Since then, the AAA was able to demonstrate to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) that our estimate of a five-year extension of the add-ons was the more appropriate approach. As a result, AAA has received a commitment from the Ways and Means Committee to lower the amount of any cut to cover the lower estimate. However, the AAA opposes any across-the-board cut and is working with the Committee and the bill sponsors to focus on addressing fraud and abuse within the dialysis transport benefit.

The AAA is working with key congressional offices as well as industry stakeholders to make changes to H.R. 3729. We remain hopeful that we can come to a consensus on these outstanding issues.

Meanwhile, on the Senate side, S. 967 is up to 12 co-sponsors with the addition of Sen. Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Boozman (R-AR), and Sen. Cassidy (R-LA). AAA encourages members to continue reaching out to their Senators to ask them to co-sponsor S. 967. The AAA will keep you updated on our progress working on extending the add-ons. Thank you for your continued support.

AAA Annual Conference & Trade Show

As we face this challenging political and regulatory climate, it is essential that ambulance leaders stay abreast of new developments and best practices in reimbursement, operations, leadership, and human resources. In addition to myriad industry experts, this year’s AAA Annual Conference & Trade Show program features three inspiring keynotes—Steven M.R. CoveyMel Robbins, and Dr. Zubin “ZDoggMD” Damania—plus a ceremony honoring AMBY Award winners for their community impact.

I hope that you will join me and hundreds of our colleagues for networking, learning, and fun in Las Vegas November 13–15. Online registration for Annual is open now.

AAA Board Election

It’s that time again! The 2017 AAA Board of Directors election is underway. This year, active members will elect Regional Directors (Regions 1–5) and new members of the Ethics Committee. Voting opened on Wednesday, October 11th, and closes at 11:59pm Eastern on Thursday, November 2nd. Best of luck to all of the candidates! (If you are the primary contact for an active member organization and did not receive your e-ballot, please contact acamas@ambulance.org.)

Renew Your Support of AAA

Has your organization yet renewed its AAA membership? Your continued support is critically important as AAA fights for fair ambulance reimbursement. Membership also include benefits such as free use of the Savvik Buying Group, complimentary CISM and EAP-based counseling for your employees, and access to industry experts on Medicare, operations, and HR.

If you have already renewed, please accept our most sincere thanks. If you have not yet submitted payment for this year’s membership, I encourage you to renew online or reach out to staff at info@ambulance.org for assistance.

Capital Campaign

Lastly, many of you are aware that during my presidency I began a Capital Campaign to raise $1,000,000 to help sustain our organization and to increase our “rainy day” fund. The funds raised by this effort can only be used in the case of a majority vote by the Board of Directors.

Today, we have raised $250,000 of the $1,000,000 goal, for which I am grateful to our member supporters. But this is not enoughwe need to be strong when a crises hits our industry and we must deploy more resources for our advocacy programs. If you have already given, I would ask that you consider another commitment to this fund. If you have not already contributed, I respectfully ask you to support your national association as it works to fight for the future of ambulance services. Thank you in advance! Contribute online now.

It continues to be my pleasure to serve so many talented, dedicated healthcare professionals. Thank you again for your service, and I look forward to seeing you at AAA Annual in Las Vegas!

—POST!
Mark Postma—President
American Ambulance Association
Representing EMS in America

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. 6) Yet have we increased staffing proportionally to meet the demand? Afraid not since “only 50% of EMS services in 2008 were fully staffed, and more than 63% had a volunteer component as part of their staffing level” (“Critical Staffing Shortages,” 2015, para. 2).

The article references increasing wages to help compensate for the decrease in trained providers by attracting more professionals to the field. With the CMC limiting payments and the major insurance companies following suit, doubtful this will be an option in the near future.

To reduce calls and increase levels of service, we can try to reeducate the public to what is a true emergency, but that is a long and slow process. For example, Philadelphia has started the trend and placed several billboards up around neighborhoods that contribute an ordinarily high amount of non-emergent 911 calls. Will this work? Time will tell but I would believe not enough to affect the volume of calls.

What about enlisting Community Paramedics in these situations? I believe this is a viable solution with nurses triaging the low acuity calls in the 911 center. Dispatching Community Paramedics armed with not only the usual equipment, but also the knowledge base to connect these patients with primary care physicians, social workers, and the programs that are available to them. This will help people receive the long-term care they deserve.

Scott F. McConnell is Vice President of EMS Education for OnCourse Learning and one of the Founders of Distance CME. Since its inception in 2010, more than 10,000 learners worldwide have relied on Distance CME to recertify their credentials. Scott is a true believer in sharing not only his perspectives and experiences but also those of other providers in educational settings.

References
* Critical Staffing Shortages (2015)
* Gluck, F. (2017, February 7th, 2017). Lee Health will lose $3.4 million in Medicare payments because of readmission rates. USA Today
* White, D. (2016, February 16th, 2016). Community paramedic? program intended to reduce 911 calls. Manatee Technical College

House Committee Passes Medicare Ambulance Relief Bill

House Committee Passes Medicare Ambulance Relief Bill

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee voted out favorably an amendment in the nature of a substitute to the Comprehensive Operations, Sustainability, ant Transport Act of 2017 (HR 3729) by Congressman Nunes (R-CA) and Sewell (D-AL). H.R. 3729 would extend for five years the Medicare ambulance add-on payments of 2% urban, 3% rural and the super rural bonus. The legislation would also implement cost reporting for ambulance service suppliers.

H.R. 3729 is a revised version of the Ambulance Medicare Budget and Operations Act  (HR 3236)introduced by Congressmen Nunes (R-CA), Upton (R-MI) and Welch (D-VT). While the AAA supports H.R. 3236, there were several changes made in H.R. 3729  that are concerning to the AAA. In particular, the addition of an offset which would implement an additional 13%* cut to BLS nonemergency transports to and from dialysis centers and a change in the penalty for not filing a time, complete and accurate cost report.  The AAA has therefore taken a neutral position on H.R. 3729 as we work with the House Ways and Means Committee and Congressmen Nunes and Sewell on modifications to the bill.

This week, AAA Board Members and Volunteer Leaders were in DC and met with both sponsors of the bill and other key offices to express our concerns over these new provisions. The AAA was able to secure the commitment of House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Congressmen Nunes and Sewell to work with us on those two key provisions.

The inclusion of an offset in the bill was necessary for its consideration by the Committee and the AAA is pushing for the language from S. 967 on prior authorization or similar approach just targeting dialysis transport fraud and abuse to replace the current cut. The AAA is also pushing for the Senate to consider S. 967which would make the add-ons permanent and require a random sampling of ambulance services to collect data instead of mandatory annual cost reporting by all ambulance services suppliers.

The AAA encourages its members to write their Senators to cosponsor S. 967.

* This figure was previously 22%.  The AAA worked with the House Ways and Means Committee and Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the cost estimate for a five-year extension of the add-ons. As a result, CBO lowered its estimate to $1 billion over ten years instead of approximately $1.8 billion. The cut to dialysis as the offset was therefore lowered from 22% to 13%.


Ask your Senators to Support S.967 – 2017 Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act

The current 33-month extension of the Medicare add-on payments is set to expire at the end of December 2017. Losing these add-on payments would be a devastating blow to ambulance services across the country. It is crucial that the payments be made permanent as we push for a long-term solution. More details about the Bill can be found below. Let your Senators know that you support S. 967 — Here are three quick and easy ways to get involved!

Writing to your members of Congress only takes 2 clicks, follow these simple steps:

1. Enter contact information below (required by Congressional offices) and click “Submit”
2. On the next page you’ll see the letter(s) to your Senators – click “Submit Messages”

House Introduces H.R. 3236 – Write to Your Reps!

Take Action for Extending Medicare Ambulance Relief

Ask your Representatives to Support H.R. 3236 – The Ambulance Medicare Budget and Operations Act of 2017

The current 33-month extension of the Medicare add-on payments is set to expire at the end of December 2017. Losing these add-on payments would be a devastating blow to ambulance services across the country. It is crucial that the payments be extended as we push for a long-term solution. H.R. 3236 introduced by Reps. Nunes, Upton, and Welch would extend the current temporary Medicare add-ons for five years. More details about the Bill can be found below. Let your Representative know that you support H.R. 3236 — Here are three quick and easy ways to get involved!

Writing to your members of Congress only takes 2 clicks, follow these simple steps:

1. Enter contact information below (required by Congressional offices) and click “Submit”
2. On the next page you’ll see the letter to your Representative (Message 1) and the letter(s) to your Senators  (Message 2) – click “Submit Messages”
Feel free to personalize your letter(s) before submitting them.

Active on Social Media? Tweet at your Representative asking for their support of H.R. 3236!

  • Authorize Your Account
  • Enter Contact Information
  • Tweet! (Tweet will be auto-generated with your Senators tagged)
Know your Senators’ Twitter accounts already? Tweet:
“#ambulance svs in your district need you, @[your Representative]! Please co-sponsor HR 3236  to help us continue to provide quality #EMS!”

Post on Facebook why H.R. 3236  is important! Be sure to tag your Representative and encourage others to share your post! Ask others to write letters of support as well! http://bit.ly/AAAbill

More About Our Bill H.R. 3236, the Ambulance Medicare Budget and Operations Act of 2017:
Legislation to extend the Medicare ambulance add-on payments for five years has been introduced by Representatives Nunes, Upton, and Welch (H.R. 3236).
Specifically, the bill:

  • Provides Medicare Ambulance Relief, by extending for five years the current temporary 2 percent urban, 3 percent rural, and super rural bonus payments.
  • Requires the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) to submit a report to Congress detailing the burden of cost reports on the ambulance industry and accuracy of the data received through ambulance cost reports and making recommendations on whether the system should be modified no later than July 1, 2019.
  • Requires CMS to work with stakeholders in the development of an ambulance cost report.

President’s Perspective: July 2017

Dear Fellow AAA Member,

I am proud to share with you that just yesterday legislation was introduced in the House on a long-term extension of Medicare ambulance add-ons. The House bill follows introduction of the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act (S. 967) in the Senate, giving us a bill in both houses of Congress.

The Ambulance Medicare Budget and Operations Act (H.R. 3236) would extend for five years the 2% urban, 3% rural, and super rural bonus increases. The bill would also direct CMS to collect cost data from ambulance service suppliers. The AAA has been working with Congressman Nunes (R-CA) and Upton (R-MI) as well as the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce Committees on the bill language. You will soon receive a Call to Action to reach out to your Representatives to cosponsor the new House bill.

  1. 967 would make the add-on payments permanent and direct CMS to collect cost data from ambulance service suppliers using a survey methodology. Since its introduction, four additional Senators have signed on to co-sponsor S. 967, Senators Sanders (VT), Cochran (MS), Tester (MT) and Gillibrand (NY), bringing the total number of cosponsors to nine. While this is good progress, we need our member’s continued assistance in getting more co-sponsors on both of our bills.

While both bills meet the needs of our industry, the language in the two bills is different. That being said, it is not uncommon for the Senate bill and the House bill to have minor differences in their respective language that have to be worked out before getting final approval. When this happens, a special conference committee made up of members from both houses will work together to come to consensus about the different provisions in the bill. It is unlikely that our bills will be passed as stand-alone legislation. Instead, our provisions will likely be included in a larger bill similar to how the extenders were passed last time as a part of the CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) Reauthorization Act. It is crucial that we have as many co-sponsors on both of our bills so that we can again be included on a larger piece of legislation.

The Medicare ambulance add-on payments will expire on December 31, 2017. To ensure continued access these critically-necessary extenders, we need the collective advocacy of ambulance services across the country. We ask that you please add your voice to the AAA’s by writing your Senators in support of Bill S.967. Additionally, you will soon receive a Call to Action to reach out to your Representatives to cosponsor the new House bill.

As always, the AAA Board, Government Affairs Committee, advocacy consultants, and staff are working diligently to build support on Capitol Hill to ensure that this vital revenue remains in place. If you missed our June 29 government affairs update webinar, I invite you to watch it on-demand now.

Annual Conference

The Education Committee recently finalized programming for the 2017 AAA Annual Conference & Trade Show. This year, we welcome three exciting keynotes—Steven M.R. Covey, Mel Robbins, and Dr. Zubin “ZDoggMD” Damania—as well as dozens of industry leaders and experts. I hope that you will join me and hundreds of our colleagues in ambulance leadership in Las Vegas in November! Online registration is open now.

Educational Events

AAA will host its inaugural SimLab workshop in Tulsa, Oklahoma on September 28. We are excited to share with members this immersive learning experience. AAA SimLab content will also be featured at the Mississippians for EMS Conference October 2–4 in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Save the date for AAA’s newest educational partnership, the Midwest EMS Expo May 2–3, 2018 in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Co-hosted with the Minnesota Ambulance Association and the Professional Ambulance Association of Wisconsin, the Midwest EMS Expo will bring together the best in national and regional education.

AAA is also proud to offer learning on-the-go, in the form of engaging webinars on human resources, reimbursement, compliance, and other topics. Don’t miss upcoming sessions on drug use, the OIG Safe Harbor on Cost Sharing, and the management of airborne medical emergencies.

Website

I am happy to share with you that AAA has a new URL, www.ambulance.org. This updated domain should assist us in clearly communicating our identity to the world, as well as in attracting new members not previously familiar with our organization.

Capital Campaign

To date, we have raised more than $255,000 of our $1mm Capital Campaign goal through the generous contributions of our fellow members. Our deepest thanks to all who have given. If you have not done so already, please consider donating today. Funds contributed to this campaign are managed separately from operating accounts, and can only be accessed after a full Board vote.

Stars of Life

It was a privilege to see many of you at Stars of Life in Washington in June. This year’s Stars program recognized 108 EMS providers from across the nation who have served their communities with distinction. The Stars, accompanied by their executive-level Hosts, met with their Senators and US Representatives to shine a light on the importance of ambulance services to our healthcare infrastructure. Nominations for the 2018 class of Stars will open in January. We hope to meet your Stars in D.C. next year.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact the AAA at 703-610-9018 or info@ambulance.org if we can be of assistance to your service.

Thank you for your service to your communities, and have a great summer.

Mark Postma
President
American Ambulance Association
“Representing EMS in America”
www.ambulance.org

Senate GOP Releases Revised BCRA

This afternoon Senate Republican leaders released the revised version of the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA). Legislative language and section-by-section summaries are now available.. The material was provided by our team at Akin Gump. The AAA will continue to keep members up to date in regards to the Obamacare repeal and replacement efforts.

Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) Revised Text
BCRA Section by Section Summary

Please contact info@ambulance.org if you have any questions.

Now On-Demand: Member Government Affairs Webinar

The American Ambulance Association (AAA) hosted the Government Affairs and Member Forum on June 29 to provide an update on legislation on the expiring temporary Medicare ambulance add-on payments, the immediate and long-term goals of AAA on Medicare reform, and how members can get involved with ambulance service-related issues. Mark Postma, president of AAA, and a panel of experts covered varied topics, including where Senate Bill S.967 stands and what changes might occur within the industry, and then fielded questions from members to offer a better understanding of regulatory issues and what’s happening in Washington.

“We put a forum together at this critical time because we currently have a Senate bill to make the add-on permanent, and we’ve been working on a House bill for a long-term extension of the add-ons to be dropped soon,” said Postma. “We have been working diligently to get the appropriate bills introduced, to keep the Medicare extenders and other items that we’ll discuss in this forum.”

Capitol Hill Landscape

The Senate “Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act” (S.967) has bipartisan support and is currently being championed Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The bill would make permanent the temporary Medicare add-ons, treat ambulance service suppliers more like providers, cut down on dialysis transport fraud and abuse, and implement our preferred cost-data collection system that is beneficial, not burdensome, to ambulance services.

The AAA is currently working on the language for a bill to introduce the House of Representatives. While the bill has yet to be introduced, the AAA is collaborating with our House supporters and Committee staff to put together a bill that, at the very least, extends the Medicare add-ons for five years.  The bill will also include cost-data reporting on which the AAA is negotiating the final details.

“This year really is critical for us,” said Tristan North, senior vice president of government affairs for AAA. “We need to make sure  the Medicare add-on payments don’t expire on December 31.”

Going Forward

The panel discussed immediate, intermediate, and long-term goals to improve the ambulance fee schedule in the foreseeable future. The pending legislation covers many of the immediate goals, but AAA consultant Kathy Lester offered information that could impact the industry in the future.

Lester talked about better defining nonemergency services, the “Uber-ization” of medical transport, and what community paramedicine means to ambulance service providers.

The panel agreed that members and the community need to show their support for legislation, causes, and issues that will shape the future of ambulance services. It was suggested that members advocate to their representatives and leaders—offering to take them on ambulance “ride-alongs,” writing letters, or showing up at government functions—and explain to them how important these pieces of legislation and resources are to the EMS profession.

“We’re working hard and hoping for change in the future,” AAA’s Chair of Government Affairs, Jamie Pafford-Gresham, said. “We need you professionals and the relationships you have with your elected officials… your voices matter to Congress and they matter to us.”

Watch On Demand

Download the PowerPoint

 

CBO Estimates Senate Bill Would Leave 22M More Uninsured

From Akin Gump:

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this afternoon released its cost estimate of the Senate’s health care bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), projecting that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured by 22 million in 2026 relative to the number under current law. This is slightly fewer than the number of uninsured estimated for the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA). CBO also estimates that the BCRA would reduce federal deficits by $321 billion over 10 years, $202 billion more than estimated net savings for the House bill.

According to the Senate Budget Committee, below is a brief summary of the changes that were made to the previous draft:

  • Conforming amendments to Sec. 106 – Changes made to better align the purposes of stability funding to the underlying CHIP statute.
  • Adds a new Sec. 206 – Starting in 2019, individuals who had a break in continuous insurance coverage for 63 days or more in the prior year will be subject to a six month waiting period before coverage begins.  Consumers will not have to pay premiums during the six month period.
  • Redesignates Secs. 206-208 to Secs. 207-209, to accommodate for the new Sec. 206 on continuous coverage.

Read the CBO report.

 

Ways & Means Medicare Hearing Today at 2:00 p.m. ET!

Ambulance providers are invited to tune in to this afternoon’s livestream of the House Ways and Means Hearing on the current status of the Medicare program, changes needed to Medicare’s payment systems, and Medicare programs that are set to expire before the end of the year. To access the livestream, please visit https://waysandmeans.house.gov/live at 2pm ET today, May 18.

Write to Your Senators! Support S.967

Take Action for Permanent Medicare Ambulance Relief

Ask your Senators to Support S.967 – 2017 Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act

The current 33-month extension of the Medicare add-on payments is set to expire at the end of December 2017. Losing these add-on payments would be a devastating blow to ambulance services across the country. It is crucial that the payments be made permanent as we push for a long-term solution. More details about the Bill can be found below. Let your Senators know that you support S. 967 — Here are three quick and easy ways to get involved!

Writing to your members of Congress only takes 2 clicks, follow these simple steps:

1. Enter contact information below (required by Congressional offices) and click “Submit”
2. On the next page you’ll see the letter(s) to your Senators – click “Submit Messages”

Active on Social Media? Tweet at your Senators asking for their support of S. 967!

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  • Tweet! (Tweet will be auto-generated with your Senators tagged)
Know your Senators’ Twitter accounts already? Tweet:
“#ambulance svs in your state need you, @[your Senators]! Please co-sponsor S. 967 to help us continue to provide quality #EMS!”


Post on Facebook why S. 967 is important! Be sure to tag your Senators and encourage others to share your post! Ask others to write letters of support as well! http://bit.ly/AAAbill

More About Our Bill S. 967, the 2017 Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act:
Permanent ambulance relief legislation has been introduced by Senators Stabenow, Roberts, Schumer, Collins, and Leahy (S. 967). This legislation will allow ambulance service providers to maintain high quality ambulance services and budget for the future.
Specifically, the bill:

  • Provides Medicare Ambulance Relief, by permanently incorporating the current temporary 2 percent urban, 3 percent rural, and super rural bonus payments into the Medicare ambulance fee schedule rates.
  • Requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to submit a report to Congress detailing the features of a reformed payment system for ambulance services under the Medicare program no later than July 1, 2019.
  • Modifies the process for the transport of dialysis patients by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a process for the prior authorization of coverage for such patients.
  • Treat ambulance services designated as “suppliers” as “providers” for certain purposes under Medicare.
  • Specifies CMS to work with stakeholders in the development of a data collection system for ambulance entities that defines the various types of ambulance entities as well as the relevant cost and data elements required for submission.

House Passes American Health Care Act (AHCA)

The House this afternoon voted 217-213 to pass the American Health Care Act (H.R. 1628), as amended. The bill now heads to the Senate where it will be up for intense debate. The AAA will continue to monitor this legislation as it makes its way through the Senate.

The House also voted 429-0 to pass a bill (H.R. 2192) from Rep. Martha McSally (R-AZ) that would eliminate a congressional exemption from health care changes. The exemption was included in AHCA to comply with budget reconciliation rules.

Two key amendments were added to the healthcare bill in order to ensure Republican support, the Upton Amendment and the MacArthur Amendment. These amendments were two of the more substantial changes to the bill since it was originally introduced. The AAA is currently working on drafting a detailed overview of this legislation and will distribute to members once completed.

 

Overtime for PTO Bill Passes the House

Yesterday a bill that would possible amend the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act passed the House. H.R. 1180, titled the Working Families Flexibility Act of 2017 was introduced by Alabama Representative Martha Roby this past February.

The proposed change would permit private employers who currently pay employees overtime for hours worked over 40 during a given week to substitute that overtime pay for compensatory paid time off in the amount of 1.5 hours for each hour of overtime worked. In order to do so, the employee would have to agree in writing with the substitution of PTO for overtime pay prior to working the overtime hours. The agreement must provide that the employee knowingly and voluntarily agrees to the substitution of PTO for overtime pay. In the case of unionized companies, the substitution can only be made if provided under the collective bargaining agreement.
To be eligible to substitute PTO for overtime pay, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least 1000 hours during the preceding uninterrupted 12 month period before the agreement is made or the receipt of the compensatory PTO. The Bill provides for limitations to the number of hours that can be accrued and the length of time it can be carried.

An employee may accrue not more than 160 hours of compensatory time. Any unused compensatory time accrued under this provision by the end of a calendar year would have to be paid to the employee no later than January 31st of the following year. An employer may designate and communicate to the employees a 12-month period other than the calendar year. However, any unused compensatory time must be paid not later than 31 days after the end of such 12-month period.

When employers are paying the unused compensatory PTO, the pay shall be paid at a rate of not less than the regular rate earned by such employee when the compensatory time was accrued or the regular rate earned by such employee at the time such employee received payment of such compensation, whichever is higher. This could mean that the employee is receiving pay at a rate higher than it would have been had the employer simply paid the overtime at the time it was incurred.

The Bill provides for some flexibility with when it pays the compensatory PTO. An employer may pay monetary compensation to the employee for accrued hours in excess of 80 hours provided it gives the employee 30 day notice. In this case, the wages would need to be paid consistent with the manner described above. However, if an employee voluntarily or involuntarily terminates employment, the employer must pay all accrued compensatory PTO to the employee.

Under the Bill, an employer who has adopted the policy of paying compensatory time instead of paying overtime wages may discontinue the practice upon 30 days written notice to the employees. Conversely, an employee may rescind their agreement to be paid compensatory PTO at any time. In such instances, the employer must pay all unused PTO accrued under the agreement within 30 days.

The Bill language contains significant provisions to protect the employee from employer threats or coercion to agree or not agree to the adoptions of compensatory PTO or to the use or failure to use such compensatory time. The Bill requires that the employee enter the agreement voluntarily and that they can essentially use the compensatory PTO or the corresponding pay in any manner that they choose. If passed, the Department of Labor will have to issue regulations that more specifically guide this practice.

While this Bill still may not get the votes it needs in the Senate (S. 801), employers should consider how adopting such a policy may impact their organizations. From a cash flow perspective, this could provide some flexibility during the year. However, the monies must be paid to the employee at the end of the 12 month period. Often employers who already have a practice of paying out unused PTO or vacation time at the end of a year struggle with the significant expense coming due. This is particularly difficult if it occurs at the end or beginning of the calendar year as there are usually additional expenses during the holidays and reductions in cash receipts during January and February for many ambulance providers.

For employees, this Bill could be a mechanism for accruing time in excess of any existing vacation, sick, or paid time of benefits that could be used for unexpected absences or for significant illnesses. Often, our employee are not financially prepared for the wages lost when they are sick or injured and do not have enough sick time to cover the absences. However, many have come to rely on the weekly payment of regularly worked overtime to cover their life expenses. Either way, it may give our employees something that they always love, the ability to choose.
We will continue to monitor the progress of this bill over the next few months and will keep members up to date. If our members have questions about this or any other Human Resource or Operational practices or issues, utilize the resources available to you as part of your AAA membership.

Support AAA’s Medicare Relief Legislation, S. 967

Dear Fellow Members,

As you know, the Medicare ambulance add-on payments are set to expire on December 31, 2017. I’m proud to share with you that today, due to AAA advocacy efforts, permanent ambulance relief legislation was introduced by Senators Stabenow, Roberts, Schumer, Collins, and Leahy.

This bill, S.967, “Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act” would make permanent the vital urban and rural Medicare add-ons and super-rural bonus payments. Although some changes are likely during the committee markup process, we are cautiously optimistic that it will also carry through proposals to reclassify ambulance organizations as providers of health care (not suppliers of transportation), as well as a cost data collection system that does not place undue burden on ambulance services.

On behalf of the AAA, I’d like to extend my deepest thanks to Senators Stabenow, Roberts, Schumer, Collins, and Leahy for sponsoring the legislation, as well as the AAA Board, Government Affairs Committee, advocacy consultants, and staff who worked so diligently to build support on Capitol Hill.

Over the coming months, AAA will continue to connect with policymakers to build support for sustainable ambulance Medicare reimbursement. However, we need your help to ensure that this critical revenue remains in place. We ask that you please contact your Senators to voice your support for S. 967. AAA makes it easy to connect with your legislators through our online advocacy tool—please use it today to quickly send messages expressing the importance of the legislation to your ambulance service and the communities you serve.

If possible, we ask that you also work with fellow ambulance providers in your area to schedule in-person meetings with your legislators’ offices. If you arrange a meeting in your home state, please contact AAA staff at info@ambulance.org for talking points to support your conversation.

Now, more than ever, we need the active participation of each member organization to ensure our collective future! Thank you in advance for your assistance with advocacy outreach, as well as for your continued membership to the American Ambulance Association.

Mark Postma
President, American Ambulance Association
“Representing EMS in America”

ACA Repeal and Replace Update

Congress returns to Washington next week, and House Republican Leadership maintains an ambitious agenda to pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA) despite an unclear path navigating its moderate and conservative factions. President Trump, who refuses to let health care reform disappear from the agenda, is especially eager for a victory, and today predicted AHCA would pass within the next few weeks.

During the in-district work period these past two weeks, the White House, House Leadership and Republican committee staff have kept conversations going with the two disagreeing factions within their caucus – the moderate Tuesday Group and the conservative Freedom Caucus. At this stage, there appears to be no agreement within the Republican Caucus, and there are varying reports on how close are discussions. The wild card is whether President Trump and his team can help force a deal. As soon as a deal materializes, the House will move the bill to the floor.

In addition to health care, the discretionary aspects of the Federal government are under a temporary continuing resolution which expires at the end of next week. An effort is underway to pass a measure that will fund the government through the remainder of the 2017 Fiscal Year, which ends September 30. This effort is not without controversy, and includes an attempt by the Trump Administration to appropriate funds to build its border wall. However, Republicans will need at least eight Senate Democrats to vote with them to pass an omnibus spending bill, so compromise will be required. There may be a series of short-term funding patches as Congress considers spending priorities.

One of the more interesting issues Congress and the Trump Administration face is what to do with Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies that were meant to help reduce cost sharing (deductibles, co-payments) for especially poor, non-Medicaid eligible individuals buying insurance on the exchange. House Republicans had successfully sued the Obama Administration in district court arguing that Congress must appropriate the money before the ACA’s Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) subsidies could be paid. With an injunction from the district court in place, Congress must decide whether to appropriate the money in the upcoming spending bill. Some Democrats have stated they will not vote to pass any budget without funds for the CSR program included. If Republicans can pass a budget without funding the CSR subsidies, they aren’t out of the woods yet on the CSR program. Specifically, the President still has to decide whether to appeal the district court decision on May 22. If President Trump chooses to accept the district court decision and there is no appropriation, the President could unilaterally shut down the CSR subsidy program. The President has threatened to use this court decision to bring Democrats to the negotiating table, in the event that the program is not appropriated and AHCA is not passed.

The AAA will continue to keep members up to date on these issues.

Senator Susan Collins Named Legislator of the Year

For Immediate Release

Senator Collins To Receive Highest Legislative Honor from American Ambulance Association

To Be Recognized as AAA Legislator of the Year

Contact
Amanda Riordan
703-610-9018
ariordan@ambulance.org
www.ambulance.org

Washington, D.C. – The American Ambulance Association (AAA) has named Senator Susan Collins of Maine as the AAA Legislator of the Year, in recognition of her strong advocacy for emergency medical services. Senator Collins is invited to receive this honor at the AAA’s annual Stars of Life recognition ceremony on June 13 in Washington, D.C.

The Stars of Life program celebrates the contributions of ambulance professionals who have gone above and beyond the call of duty in service to their communities or the EMS profession. Stars of Life pays tribute to the dedication of these heroes while shining light on the critical role EMS plays in our healthcare infrastructure. This year, 101 EMS professionals will be honored as 2017 Stars of Life. In addition to Senator Collins’s recognition as as Legislator of the Year, twenty-four United States Senators and Representatives will receive Legislative Recognition Awards for their support of ambulance services.

AAA President Mark Postma notes, “Senator Collins has been a tireless advocate for emergency medical services, both in Maine and across our country. The AAA is honored to present her with the distinction of AAA Legislator of the Year.”

Senator Collins is a primary sponsor of the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act which would make permanent the current temporary Medicare ambulance relief. This bill ensures that ambulance service providers across the nation have the resources necessary to provide often life-saving emergency- as well as vital non-emergency medical transportation.

As Chair of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs from 2003 to 2007, Senator Collins ensured both governmental and nongovernmental medical service providers were included in the definition of an emergency responder in the Homeland Security Act. This enabled ambulance service providers as first responders access to critical funding and resources.

First elected to the senate in 1996, Senator Collins has earned a national reputation for working across party lines to seek consensus on our nation’s most important issues. Senator Collins has carried out her longstanding commitment to healthcare issues through her work on the Special Committee on Aging as well as the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

In recognition of her ongoing service to the ambulance services of the United States, AAA is proud to call Senator Collins our Legislator of the Year.

# # #

About the American Ambulance Association

Founded in 1979, the AAA represents hundreds of ambulance services across the United States that participate in emergency and nonemergency care and medical transportation. The Association serves as a voice and clearinghouse for ambulance services, and views prehospital care not only as a public service, but also as an essential part of the total public health care system.

AAA Mission Statement

The mission of the American Ambulance Association is to promote health care policies that ensure excellence in the ambulance services industry and provide research, education, and communications programs to enable its members to effectively address the needs of the communities they serve.

ACHA Update – High-risk Pool Amendment

The House Rules Committee met last week to consider a new amendment to the American Health Care Act (AHCA) to establish a federal risk-sharing fund and appropriate $15 billion for a high-risk pool program from 2018 to 2026.

The amendment, which aims to reduce premiums for those with pre-existing conditions, is sponsored by Reps. Gary Palmer (R-AL) and Dave Schweikert (R-AZ), both members of the House Freedom Caucus.

Washington Post: “GOP House leaders say health bill tweak shows progress, but larger divisions remain

The program is reportedly modeled after a successful initiative in the State of Maine. The federal government would run the program initially, but each state will have the ability to take over the high-risk pool after three years.

The amendment represents one area of limited agreement in the broader AHCA debate. Conservative House Members are likely to support it to the extent it shifts authority and funding to the states to help keep premiums down, and moderates are likely to support it because it would add a layer of protection for individuals with pre-existing conditions. It is unclear whether the level of funding appropriated will be sufficient to meet the need, however.

The development is not evidence of a breakthrough, however, and negotiations are far from over. Rather, it is a strategic move by House Republican leaders to signal progress in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal-and-replace debate before lawmakers head home for a two-week congressional recess at the end of this week. It also is unclear whether the amendment will have any impact on the broader areas of disagreement between the House and Senate regarding the timing, substance and process for ACA repeal.

The decision was reportedly made at a meeting the President convened last week with Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA). Speaker Ryan indicated that work will continue “in the days and weeks ahead,” suggesting a longer time-frame for any legislative action beyond last week’s vote in the House Rules Committee.