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…)

Rural Health Day Advocacy Update

Happy National Rural Health Day! Thank you to all of the ambulance service providers who work hard providing life-saving treatment in rural areas every day. In part of our ongoing advocacy efforts, the AAA sent a letter today to the Rural Caucuses in the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Addressed to leadership of the caucuses, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE), and Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), this in-depth letter highlights the critical work that our members do every day around the country and raises important issues affecting the industry. Issues covered in the letter include: Stabilizing the Ambulance Fee Schedule Make the add-ons permanent and build them into the base rate Use new data from the ambulance cost collection program to ensure reimbursement is adequate going forward New data should be used to assess the problems with the current ZIP-code methodology for determining rural and super-rural services Ambulance Fee Schedule Reform Proposed alternative models for rural ambulance services Encouraging Congress to look at alternative destination options for ambulance service providers Recognizing Ambulance Services as Providers of Health Care Moving non-fire-based ambulance services from suppliers to providers under Medicare The letter also highlights...

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HIPAA Breach Results in Highest Settlement in OCR History

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced earlier this month that is has entered into the largest settlement agreement in the history of the Department with Anthem, Inc., the largest Blue Cross and Blue Shield health benefit companies in the country.  Anthem, Inc. agreed to pay $16 million to HHS and take substantial corrective action to settle numerous potential violations of both HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules after it exposed protected health information (PHI) for nearly 79 million people. In March 2015 Anthem filed a breach report with OCR after they discovered that their Information Technology (IT) systems were infiltrated by cyber-attackers who had gained access to their systems after an Anthem employee opened a phishing email.  This email released an undetected continuous persistent threat attack that permitted the cyber-attackers to access their systems from December 2014 through the end of January 2015.  This attack opened access that ultimately resulted in the PHI of nearly 79 million people to be stolen. OCR’s investigation revealed that Anthem failed to conduct an enterprise-wide risk analysis.  Additionally, OCR determined that Anthem “failed to have sufficient policies and procedures to regularly review IT system activity, identify...

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Statement on Ambulance Cost Data Collection

October 22, 2018 Contact: Amanda Riordan Phone: 703-615-4492 Email: ariordan@ambulance.org For Immediate Release Statement on Cost Data Collection for Ambulance Services WASHINGTON, DC—On October 17, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), and The Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association released a joint statement discouraging fire-based providers from endorsing AAA’s proposed ambulance cost collection methodology. While we regret to learn that they do not believe that our method is appropriate for the segment of providers they represent, we respectfully disagree and invite open dialogue as our previous requests to discuss cost collection with the IAFF and IAFC were declined. The American Ambulance Association membership is composed of ambulance providers of all types and sizes, ranging from non-profit, for-profit, volunteer, hospital-based, county-based, public utility models, and more. We represent 911 ambulance providers in major metropolitan areas, small 911 providers in rural America, and those who provide vital hospital-to-hospital interfacility mobile healthcare throughout the country. AAA encourages all ambulance providers to visit www.ambulancereports.org to learn about the extensive research, time, and thought devoted to ensure that our comprehensive recommendations accurately capture data for the full spectrum of providers. “Regardless of an ambulance organization’s service model, we collectively serve (more…)

MedPAC Examines Beneficiary Use of Emergency Departments

During its October meeting, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), reviewed Medicare’s current policies related to non-urgent and emergency care, as these topics relate to the use of hospital emergency departments (EDs) and urgent care centers (UCCs). The Commission is examining this topic because the use of ED services in recent years has grown faster than that of physician offices.  At the same time, the share of ED visits that are coded as high acuity has increased. The Commission is exploring Medicare beneficiaries’ use of EDs and UCCs for non-urgent services. In addition, the Commission is analyzing ED coding to determine if the increase in coding high-acuity visits reflects real change in the patients treated in EDs. This slide deck shows the potential savings Medicare could realize if beneficiaries shift certain care to the UCC setting. During the meeting, the staff sought feedback from Commissioners for developing next steps. This topic will likely continue to be addressed in future meetings. From the perspective of ambulance payment reform, the observations made by the Commissioners and staff would also seem to support incorporating scope-appropriate ambulance services in the context of community paramedicine or treatment at the scene with referral. While additional work...

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Government Affairs Update

Government Affairs Update: What We’re Working On The AAA continues to press policy initiatives with Congress and the Administration that are important to our members. While not as high-profile as our successful efforts earlier this year on the five-year extension of the Medicare ambulance add-ons, the AAA is working hard on ambulance legislation and regulations that impact the EMS industry and ambulance services across the country. Here is a snapshot of those current efforts. Over the next month, we will be providing weekly in-depth updates highlighting these issues. Ambulance Cost Data Collection System The AAA was successful in getting our preferred language of an ambulance cost data collection system using a survey and random sample methodology included with the extension of the add-ons in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. However, that was just the first key step in the process. We now need to ensure that CMS gets the details right as the agency develops the structural specifics and data elements for the system. It is critical that the system is designed in a way that ambulance service suppliers and providers will submit the most accurate data possible. The data will ultimately provide the information necessary for Congress, the...

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Notice of Proposed Change to OSHA Injury Reporting

Notice of Proposed Change to OSHA Electronic Injury Reporting Regulations The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced on July 27, 2018 that it has published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that would change the Electronic Injury Reporting Regulations (29 CFR Part 1904) for employers with 250 or more employees. OSHA is proposing this change due to a heightened concern that employee Personally Identifiable Information may be at risk of disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Currently, all EMS employers must submit their annual injury and illness data to OSHA through the Injury Tracking Application (ITA). Historically, employers were required to track all workplace injuries and illnesses and maintain records of those incidents in the workplace on the OSHA Form 300, 301, and 300A. Each year, employers are required to post a Summary of Workplace Injuries and Illnesses on the Form 300A from February 1st through April 30th. In May 2016, OSHA amended the regulations requiring all employers to submit their Form 300A Summary electronically through the Injury Tracking Application (ITA). Employers with 250 or more employees were required to electronically report all injury and illness data from Forms 300, 301, and 300A each year. Initially OSHA...

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