Member Update on Balance Billing

This morning Ruth Hazdovac and Aidan Camas of AAA staff and Kathy Lester, Esq, Healthcare Consultant to the AAA attended a briefing held by the House Energy & Commerce Committee on the issue of surprise/balance billing. At the briefing, staff for Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Ranking Member Greg Walden (R-OR) announced that they would be releasing a bipartisan discussion draft, the No Surprises Act, which would “protect consumers from surprise medical bills and increase transparency in our health care system.” As of now, ground and air ambulances are NOT included in the discussion draft. However, the committee is asking for comments on ground and air ambulance and recommendations on how to provide relief to the consumer in this area. The AAA has a Balance Billing Work Group that is hard at work developing a policy recommendation that will work for our members. The House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Lloyd Doggett also announced today that the Health Subcommittee will hold a hearing next week entitled “Hearing on Protecting Patients from Surprise Medical Bills.” AAA Staff will be at the briefing and provide a timely update to membership on any developments. The AAA team will be submitting comments and (more…)

President’s Perspective April 2019

Dear Fellow AAA Members, Spring is in full bloom in Washington, D.C., and the American Ambulance Association is hard at work in our nation’s capital advocating for mobile healthcare providers. I am pleased to share with you several updates from your association. Advocacy Progress The AAA continues to forge ahead advocating for the legislative and regulatory priorities of our membership. Earlier this month, more than forty AAA volunteer leaders and members came to Washington, D.C., meeting with more than 100 congressional offices to advocate for Medicare policies and improved claims processing by the Department of Veterans Affairs for emergency ambulance services. (View photos on Facebook.) The AAA has also taken an active role in responding to potentially harmful “surprise billing” legislation. The AAA has been urging Members of Congress to recognize the unique and essential nature of emergency ambulance services and ambulance interfacility mobile healthcare transports. Ambulance service suppliers and providers are already heavily regulated at the local level and struggle with receiving adequate reimbursement. The Congress should protect patient access to ground ambulance services and continue to allow us to balance bill. The AAA is working closely with CMS and the RAND corporation on the development of the ambulance (more…)

Release: CMMI Announces Ambulance Innovative Payment Pilot Program

February 14, 2019 For Immediate Release Contact Maria Bianchi American Ambulance Association 202-802-9020 info@ambulance.org CMMI Announces Ambulance Innovative Payment Pilot Program Washington, DC – Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) announced the launch of the Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) Model.  During the next five years, this model will test paying ambulance providers and suppliers when they transport beneficiaries to locations other than an emergency department, if the alternative location is more appropriate medically for the patient.  It will also test paying for health care services provided by qualified health care professionals or through telehealth at the scene even if the ambulance does not transport the patient. While there are several important details yet to be released, this model appears to track the recommendations the American Ambulance Association, our members, and other industry partners have been working with CMS to implement. “Over the last 7 years, the AAA and our members have been working to develop an innovative payment framework to modernize the Medicare ambulance benefit,” said AAA President Aarron Reinert. “We are pleased that CMS is taking this important step and look forward to working closely with Administrator (more…)

Senate Introduces S. 228

Last year, Congress included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 an offset to cover the cost of the 5 year extension of the add-ons. The offset cuts reimbursement for BLS nonemergency transports to and from dialysis centers by an additional 13%. This is on top of the preexisting 10% reduction. The AAA is pleased to announce that Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Doug Jones (D-AL) have recently introduced S. 228 which would restructure the offset so that a majority of the additional reduction would be focused on those ambulance service agencies in which 50% or more of their volume are repetitive BLS nonemergency transports to and from dialysis centers. S. 228 is the reintroduction of S. 3619 from last Congress which served as a companion bill to the House version, the NEATSA Act (H.R.6269), by Congressman LaHood (R-IL) and Congresswoman Sewell (D-AL) which was introduced in June 2018. AAA staff and volunteer leaders are working to get a House version of this legislation reintroduced shortly. The additional cut went into effect on October 1, 2018 and negatively impacted AAA members. The AAA is working to help pass this legislation and we will keep members updated as this legislation moves through (more…)

HHS OCR Requests Feedback on HIPAA Privacy Rule

On January 28, 2019, the Office of Health and Human Services the Office for Civil Rights (HHS OCR) issues a Request for Information (RFI) seeking input from covered entities regarding several aspects of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).  Specifically, the HHS OCR is seeking input regarding several elements of the Privacy Rule, including the following: Encouraging information-sharing for treatment and care coordination Facilitating parental involvement in care Addressing the opioid crisis and serious mental illness Accounting for disclosures of PHI for treatment, payment, and health care operations as required by the HITECH Act Changing the current requirement for certain providers to make a good faith effort to obtain an acknowledgment of receipt of the Notice of Privacy Practices I am aware that several AAA member services who have struggled with many of the HIPAA restrictions regarding the sharing of PHI with other healthcare entities.  In particular, with regard to individuals who suffer opioid overdoses and efforts to ensure the individual has access to drug treatment programs.  Additionally, HHS OCR is seeking input from covered healthcare providers regarding the “good faith” efforts to obtain acknowledgement of the receipt of Privacy Practices.  This has been a considerable challenge for...

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Reports of Ambulance Pilot Programs

Earlier this week, health care trade press reported that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) will be rolling out in the coming weeks several innovation pilot programs including a couple related to ambulance services. Over the last several months, the AAA has been meeting with CMMI and CMS officials about a pilot or change in policy to allow for coverage of transports by ambulance to destinations other than emergency departments. These efforts have coincided with efforts by others in the industry on alternative destination as well as reimbursement on some form of treat and refer of a patient. The AAA is pleased that CMMI and CMS have listened to the recommendations of the AAA and other groups in moving forward on testing different policy changes. However, it is critical that the AAA and our members see the specifics of any pilot programs before we determine whether to support the initiative. CMMI cannot provide details of the program until available publicly and all the specifics of such programs are critical to whether they will be a success and if it will be a positive change for the industry and our ability to provide quality patient care. We will provide you details of the pilot programs and the position of (more…)

Congress Passes SIREN Act

On December 12, 2018, Congress passed the 2018 Farm Bill (S. 3042) by a 386-47 vote in the House and 87 – 13 vote in the Senate. Included in the final Bill was language similar to the SIREN Act (S. 2830, H.R. 5429) to reauthorize the Rural EMS Grant program. In an effort to ensure the funding would go to the most needy, small, and rural EMS providers, the language of the amendment and SIREN Act would change the eligibility to just governmental and non-profit EMS agencies. Therefore, small rural for-profit ambulance service providers would no longer be eligible to apply for grants – which haven’t been funded for over a decade. These grants would now provide funds up to $200,000 for training, equipment, and personnel retention in rural areas. The grants also require a 10% contribution by the grant recipient. The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) will issue a guidance with the details on how these grants will be administered. Since the program has been unfunded for so long, it is unclear at this time, how it will be rolled out. HRSA will most likely follow past protocol providing details through guidance including how to submit and deadlines. (more…)

Federal District Court Judge Strikes Down the ACA

On December 14, 2018, a federal district court judge for the Northern District of Texas issued a ruling striking down the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the grounds that the Individual Mandate was unconstitutional, and that the rest of the law cannot withstand constitutional scrutiny without the Individual Mandate. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor’s decision relates to a lawsuit filed earlier this year by 20 states and two individuals. The plaintiffs argued that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 — which amended the Individual Mandate to eliminate the penalty on individuals that failed to purchase qualifying insurance effect January 1, 2019 — rendered the Individual Mandate unconstitutional. The plaintiffs further argued that the Individual Mandate was inseverable from the rest of the ACA, and, therefore, that the entire ACA should be struck down. The defendants in this case were the United States of America, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Alex Azar, in his capacity as the Secretary of HHS, and David J. Kautter, in his capacity as the Acting Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 16 states and the District of Columbia intervened as additional defendants. In order to properly understand the district (more…)