COVID-19 Testing for First Responders

From the Federal Healthcare Resilience Task Force’s EMS / Prehospital Team on July  2. COVID-19 Testing for First Responders Product (EMS42) Purpose This document provides a brief overview of COVID-19 testing to inform decision-making for first responders including emergency medical service (EMS), Fire & Rescue, Law Enforcement and 911 telecommunicators. Developed By The Federal Healthcare Resilience Task Force (HRTF) is leading the development of a comprehensive strategy for the U.S. healthcare system to facilitate resiliency and responsiveness to the threats posed by COVID-19. The Task Force’s EMS/Pre-Hospital Team is comprised of public and private-sector EMS and 911 experts from a wide variety of agencies and focuses on responding to the needs of the pre-hospital community. This team is composed of subject matter experts from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Office of Emergency Medical Services (OEMS), National 911 Program, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), U.S. Fire Administration (USFA), U.S. Army, U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and non-federal partners representing stakeholder groups. Through collaboration with experts in related fields, the team develops practical resources for field providers, supervisors, administrators, medical directors, and associations to better respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. (more…)

House Passes PPP Extension

On July 1, The U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to extend the deadline to apply for forgivable small business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. The legislation was previously passed by the Senate and President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law. The bill extends the deadline to request Paycheck Protection Program loans to August 8 from June 30. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), which oversees the program with the Treasury Department, stopped accepting loan applications at midnight Tuesday. The extension is intended to provide more time for small businesses to apply for the approximately $129 billion in PPP funding remaining. The program provides forgivable loans that small businesses and other qualifying entities can use to cover payroll and other select costs. The AAA will continue to press the Congress and federal agencies for help to ensure ambulance service organizations and our paramedics and EMTs serving on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic have the necessary resources and financial assistance to serve their communities....

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Government Affairs Update: What We’re Working On

With the U.S. Senate on track to consider a fourth economic stimulus package before their August recess, the AAA is working hard to promote legislative language that positively impact the EMS industry and ambulance services across the country. Here is a snapshot of those current efforts. Ambulance Funding in Response to COVID-19 As the Senate develops its next economic stimulus legislation to address the impact of COVID-19, the AAA has met with leaders and staff on Capitol Hill to increase the percentage of the general allocation of funds under the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) for ground ambulance services providers and suppliers to equal a total of $2.89 billion in funds for our industry. The $2.89 billion reflects $48,000 per ambulance with an estimated 60,000 registered vehicles. We greatly appreciate the recent payments under the Fund which will help with our current situation. However, the ground ambulance services industry is only 0.90% of Medicare fee-for-service annual outlays which resulted in $270 million for our industry in round one of PHSSEF payments. This figure is disproportional to the large role of ground ambulance service providers and suppliers in responding to COVID-19 and our increased costs and reduced revenues...

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6/25 | CMS Open Door Forum | Documentation Requirement Lookup Service

From the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Special Open Door Forum:  Medicare Documentation Requirement Lookup Service Thursday, June 25, 2020 | 2:00-3:00 pm Eastern Time Conference Call Only The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Center for Program Integrity will host a series of Special Open Door Forum (SODF) calls to educate the public about a new initiative underway to develop a Medicare Fee for Service (FFS) Documentation Requirement Lookup Service prototype. Also, to allow physicians, suppliers, IT and Electronic Health Record (EHR) Developers and Vendors, and/or all other interested parties to provide feedback to CMS and inform how interested parties can get involved or track the progress of this initiative. CMS is collaborating with ongoing industry efforts to streamline workflow access to coverage requirements, starting with developing a prototype Medicare FFS Documentation Requirement Lookup Service and is participating in two workgroups to promote development of standards that will support the Lookup Service. One workgroup is a private sector initiative hosted by Health Level Seven (HL7), the Da Vinci project. The second workgroup is The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) at Scale Taskforce (FAST). By working with HL7, ONC, (more…)

Updated CMS FAQs on the Ambulance Data Collection

Updated CMS FAQs on the Ambulance Data Collection System and Reporting Requirement Delay As we recently reported, CMS announced that it will be delaying the implementation of the statutorily mandated ambulance data collection system.  CMS has released a new set of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) clarifying the delay.  In sum, ambulance organizations selected to provide cost data for 2020 will now be required to report 2021 data in Year 2.  CMS will also add a new set of ambulance organizations for Year 2 reporting as well.  This means that twice as many ambulance organizations will be reporting 2021 data in Year 2 and there will be no data reported for 2020.  Any organization selected that does not report data will be subject to the 10 percent penalty, unless an exception applies.  In addition to addressing concerns about reporting during the pandemic, the FAQs suggest that CMS is concerned that 2020 data “may not be reflective of typical costs and revenue associated with providing ground ambulance services.” The complete list of these questions, as well as previous ambulance FAQs for COVID-19 on Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) Billing can be found here.  The new data collections are below. Data Collection and Reporting Requirements (more…)

AAA Sends letter on Accelerated Payments

On May 26, the AAA sent a letter to HHS Secretary Alex Azar and CMS Administrator Seema Verma, requesting improvements to the Medicare Accelerated and Advance Payment (MAAP) Programs. The nation’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic is putting an increased financial strain on emergency medical services, and ground ambulance service providers and suppliers already faced significant funding challenges. The suggested improvements include: Extending the interim period prior to the date repayment begins from four months to at least 12 months; Reducing the amount that is withheld during the repayment period from one hundred percent (100%) of the Medicare payment to not more than twenty-five percent (25%); Extending the date on which interest first begins to accrue from 210 days to at least 2 years (preferably 3 years); Reduce the interest rate that would be applicable after that date from the current 9.625 percent to a rate of no more than 2%; and Reopen the MAAP to allow EMS agencies that did not request a Medicare advance prior to April 26, 2020 to request an advance. The AAA believes the improvements to the MAAP discussed above would provide short-term financial relief to ambulance service providers and suppliers nationwide and allow us...

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Justice Department Responds on PSOB

On April 9, the AAA and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr requesting the Department of Justice extend coverage under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program to all paramedics and EMTs during the COVID-19 national health emergency. While paramedics and EMTs employed by governmental and non-profit EMS agencies are currently eligible for the program, those employed by private for-profit organizations and on the front lines of responding to COVID-19 pandemic are not covered. Read our letter HERE. On May 22, the AAA received a written response from the DOJ denying any expansion of the PSOB program. They state paramedics and emergency medical technicians employed by private for-profit EMS agencies do not meet the definition of “public safety officers” for purposes of PSOB eligibility as defined under the 1976 PSOB Act despite the waiver of said eligibility requirements by former Attorney General Ashcroft in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Read their Response HERE. The AAA continues to pursue an expansion of the PSOB program to include all paramedics and EMTs and will push for a legislative solution on Capitol Hill....

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AAA/NAEMT Request PSOB Coverage for All Medics During COVID-19

On April 9, the AAA and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr requesting the Department of Justice extend coverage under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits (PSOB) program to all paramedics and EMTs during the COVID-19 national health emergency. While paramedics and EMTs employed by governmental and non-profit EMS agencies are currently eligible for the program, those employed by private for-profit organizations and on the front lines of responding to COVID-19 pandemic are not covered. Read Letter HERE....

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AAA Sends Letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin on Paycheck Protection Program

Earlier today, the AAA sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Mnuchin asking that he use his discretionary authority to apply the same terms of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to ambulance service organizations with 500 or more employees. The PPP, established by the CARES Act, is only available to businesses with 500 or fewer employees and provides more favorable loan terms based on the retention of employees. Read the letter HERE....

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HHS Announces Release of Initial Tranche of CARES Act Provider Relief Funding

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.  These funds will be used to fund healthcare-related expenses or to offset lost revenue attributable to COVID-10.  These funds will also be used to ensure that uninsured Americans have access to testing a treatment for COVID-19.  Collectively, this funding is referred to as the “CARES Act Provider Relief Fund.” On April 9, 2020, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) indicated that it would be disbursing the first $30 billion of relief funding to eligible providers and suppliers starting on April 10, 2020.  This money will be disbursed via direct deposit into eligible providers and supplier bank accounts.  Please note that these are outright payments, i.e., these are not loans that will need to be repaid.  Who is Eligible to Receive Relief Fund Payments? HHS indicated that any healthcare provider or supplier that received Medicare Fee-For-Service reimbursements in 2019 will be...

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CMS Announces Delay to ET3 Start Date

On April 8, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will be delaying the start of the Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) Model until Fall 2020.  The ET3 Model was previously set to start on May 1, 2020.  CMS cited the national response to the COVID-19 pandemic as the reason for this delay. In its delay notice, CMS also reminded the EMS industry that it has issued a number of temporary regulatory waivers and new rules that are designed to give health care providers and suppliers maximum flexibility to respond to the current national emergency.  This includes a number of flexibilities offered specifically to the ambulance industry....

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CMMI Delays ET3 Pilot Program Until Fall

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) has announced the delay of the start of the ET3 Model Pilot Program. CMMI has delayed the program until the fall of this year. The program was set to begin on May 1. In its notice, CMMI also referenced the interim final rule providing waivers for transport to alternative destinations and other regulatory flexibility previously reported by the AAA. ET3 Model Timeline Delay and Important Updates ET3 Model Stakeholders, Thank you for your engagement to date related to the ET3 Model. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is seeking to support the community of organizations that are responding to the public health emergency stemming from the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19). As CMS and ET3 Model selected applicants work to respond to needs due to COVID-19, CMS has decided to delay the start of the ET3 Model from May 1, 2020 until Fall 2020. CMS appreciates your continued support and enthusiasm for the innovations available under the ET3 Model, and as such, we will continue to communicate information and updates about the Model through this listserv. Important Updates Regarding CMS Flexibilities to Fight COVID-19 In addition, we want to inform ET3...

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HEROES Act – Tax Free Income for Paramedics and EMTs

On April 3, Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-MI) introduced the Helping Emergency Responders Overcome Emergency Situations Act of 2020 “HEROES Act of 2020” (H.R. 6433). H.R. 6433 would exclude from gross income, the wages (not to exceed $50,000) from February 15 to June 15 of qualified first responders. Those wages would therefore essentially be tax-free. A definition of a qualified first responder specifically includes paramedics and EMTs who provide services in a county with at least one confirmed case of COVID-19. The language would apply to all paramedics and EMTs regardless of their employer type. The AAA had reached out prior to the introduction of the bill to staff with Congressman Huizenga to ensure that would be the case....

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AAA Sends Letter to HHS on COVID-19 Response

On April 6, the AAA sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Azar requesting that the Department distribute direct payments to all ambulance service providers and suppliers who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. The AAA requested funding under the $100 Billion Public Health and Social Service Emergency Fund, established by the CARES Act, in the amount of $48,000 per ambulance registered as of April 1. The AAA estimates the payments would represent approximately $2.6 billion in desperately-needed relief for our industry. Read the letter HERE....

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