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 for the Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection System

 1. Question: CMS requires selected ground ambulance organizations to collect cost, revenue, utilization, and other information through the Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection System. The collected information will be provided to MedPAC, which is required to submit a report to Congress on the adequacy of Medicare payment rates for ground ambulance services and geographic variations in the cost of furnishing such services. Will the data collection and reporting requirements for the Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection System be delayed due to COVID-19?

Answer: Yes. CMS has issued a blanket waiver: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/summary-covid-19-emergency-declaration- waivers.pdf due to the PHE for the COVID-19 pandemic. CMS is modifying the data collection period and data reporting period, as defined at 42 CFR §414.626(a), for ground ambulance organizations that were selected by CMS to collect data beginning between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020 (Year 1).

Under this modification, these ground ambulance organizations can select a new data collection period that begins between January 1, 2021, and December 31, 2021; collect the necessary data during their selected data collection period; and submit the data during the data reporting period that corresponds to their selected data collection period.

CMS is modifying this data collection and reporting period to increase flexibilities for ground ambulance organizations that would otherwise be required to collect data in 2020–2021 so that they can focus on their operations in support of patient care.

As a result of this modification, ground ambulance organizations selected for year 1 data collection and reporting will collect and report data during the same period of time that will apply to ground ambulance organizations selected by CMS under §414.626(c) to collect data beginning between January 1, 2021, and December 31, 2021 (year 2) for purposes of complying with the data reporting requirements described at §414.626.

For additional information on the Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection System, please visit the Ambulances Services Center website at

https://www.cms.gov/Center/Provider-Type/Ambulances-Services-Center.

New: 6/16/20

2. Question: Will the 10 percent payment reduction still apply to ground ambulance organizations that are now required to collect and report data under the modified data collection and reporting period but do not sufficiently report the required data?

Answer: Yes. The 10 percent payment reduction described at 42 CFR §414.610(c)(9) will still apply if a ground ambulance organization is selected to collect and report data under the modified data collection and reporting timeframe, but does not sufficiently submit the required data according to the modified timeframe and is not granted a hardship exemption. The payment reduction will be applied to payments made under the Medicare Part B Ambulance Fee Schedule for services furnished during the calendar year that begins following the date that CMS provides written notification that the ground ambulance organization did not submit the required data.

New: 6/16/20

3. Question: The modification states that the ground ambulance organizations that were selected by CMS to collect data beginning between January 1, 2020, and December 31, 2020 (year 1) can select a new continuous 12-month data collection period that begins between January 1, 2021, and December 31, 2021. Do the ground ambulance organizations that were selected in year 1 have an option to continue with their current data collection period that started in early 2020 or choose to select a new data collection period starting in 2021?

Answer: No. The ground ambulance organizations that were selected for year 1 do not have an option and must select a new data collection period that begins in 2021. CMS cannot permit this option because the data collected in 2020 during the PHE may not be reflective of typical costs and revenue associated with providing ground ambulance services. New: 6/16/20

4. Question: Does the guidance mean that there will be no data reporting in 2021 and that both the ground ambulance organizations that were selected for year 1 and the ground ambulance organizations that will be selected for year 2 will collect and report data during the same time periods?

Answer: Yes. Under the modification, ground ambulance organizations that are selected for year 1 will not collect data in 2020. These ground ambulance organizations will select a new data collection period that begins in 2021 and must submit a completed Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection Instrument during the data reporting period that corresponds to their selected data collection period. As a result of the modification, year 1 and year 2 selected ground ambulance organizations will collect and report data during the same time periods. New: 6/16/20

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 to continue our critical work during this difficult time for our country. Read our letter HERE.

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.

CMS | Re-opening Facilities for Non-Emergent Healthcare: Phase I

CMS Issues Recommendations to Re-Open Health Care Systems in Areas with Low Incidence of COVID-19

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services issues new recommendations specifically targeted to communities that are in Phase 1 of the Guidelines for President Trump’s Opening Up America Again with low incidence or relatively low and stable incidence of COVID-19 cases. The recommendations update earlier guidance provided by CMS on limiting non-essential surgeries and medical procedures. The new CMS guidelines recommend a gradual transition and encourage health care providers to coordinate with local and state public health officials, and to review the availability of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies, workforce availability, facility readiness, and testing capacity when making the decision to re-start or increase in-person care.

The new recommendations can be found here (PDF). 

The Guidelines for Opening Up America Again can be found here.

Grants and Tax Credits Toolkit

Grants and Tax Credits Toolkit

Download materials from Akin Gump including aid summaries and how-to guides on qualifying for tax credits and deferments and applying for financial assistance.

 

 

URGENT – CALL TO ACTION Contact Congress Today About COVID-19 Ambulance Relief!

URGENT – CALL TO ACTION

Contact Congress Today About COVID-19 Ambulance Relief!

The Congress and Administration are currently in negotiations on a fourth economic stimulus package to address the impact of COVID-19. While the AAA and our members were successful in helping secure the recent direct payments to ambulance service providers and suppliers, we still have several issues yet to be addressed including additional financial relief. Specifically, we are advocating for coverage for “treatment in place”, the ability of private for-profit EMS organizations to apply directly for FEMA Public Assistance program grants, additional direct compensation for COVID-19 expenses and lost revenue, and priority access to PPE and COVID-19 testing for paramedics and EMTs.

Please e-mail today the health aides for your members of Congress!

 It will take you only a few minutes per congressional office to email a letter. Just follow these steps. 

  1. USE LETTER TEMPLATE: CLICK HERE to access a draft letter. Please customize your letter including the cities and towns you serve, if you are sending to the office of a Senator or Representative and any additional details as to services you are providing during the COVID-19 outbreak and the financial impact on your operation.
  1. LOOK UP YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS AND THEIR WEBFORM ADDRESS: CLICK HERE to access a list of the webform addresses of your Members of Congress.
  1. SEND LETTERS TO MEMBERS: Cut and paste the webform link into your Internet browser and you will be directed to the webpage for contacting your member of Congress. Fill in your contact information, cut and paste your letter into the comments box and hit submit.

In addition to advocating for the Congress to address these issues in the next economic stimulus package, the AAA is also pressing federal agencies to use their authority to help make some of these changes regulatorily.

The AAA will continue to fight for our members as your operation and paramedic and EMTs are on the front lines of combating the Coronavirus.

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.

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.

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 eligible for the initial allocation.  Payments to practices that are part of larger medical groups will be sent to the group’s central billing office (based on Medicare enrollment information).  HHS indicated that billing organizations will be identified by their Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs).

Are There Any Conditions to Receipt of this Funding?

Yes.  As a condition to receiving relief funding, a healthcare provider or supplier must agree not to seek to collection out-of-pocket payments from COVID-19 patients that are greater than what the patient would have otherwise been required to pay if the care had been provided by an in-network provider.

How is the Amount of Relief Funding an Entity will Receive Determined?

HHS indicated that the amounts healthcare providers and suppliers will receive will be based on their pro-rata share of total Medicare FFS expenditures in 2019.  HHS indicated that Medicare FFS payments totaled $484 billion in 2019.

Providers and suppliers can estimate their initial relief payment amount by dividing their 2019 Medicare FFS reimbursement by $484 billion, and then multiplying that “ratio” by $30 billion.  Note: payments from Medicare Advantage plans are not included in the calculation of a provider’s/supplier’s total 2019 Medicare payments.

As an example, HHS cited a community hospital that received $121 million in Medicare payments in 2019.  HHS indicated that this hospital’s ratio would be 0.00025.  That amount is then multiplied by $30 billion to come up with its initial relief fund payment of $7.5 million.

The AAA has created a CARES Act Provider Relief Calculator
that you can use to estimate your initial relief payment.  |
USE DOWNLOADABLE EXCEL CALCULATOR►

Do I Need to do Anything to Receive Relief Funds?

No.  You do not need to do anything to receive your relief funding.  HHS has partnered with UnitedHealth Group (UHG) to disburse these monies using the Automated Clearing House (ACH) system.  Payments will be made automatically to the ACH account information on file with UHG or CMS.

Providers and suppliers that are normally paid by CMS through paper checks will receive a check from CMS within the next few weeks.

How Will I Know if I Received My Relief Funds?

The ACH deposit will come to you via Optum Bank.  The payment description will read “HHSPayment.”

Do I Need to do Anything Once I Receive My Relief Funds?

Yes.  You will need to sign an attestation statement confirming relief of the funds within 30 days.  These attestations will be made through a webportal that HHS anticipates opening the week of April 13, 2020.  The portal will need to be accessed through the CARES Act Provider Relief Fund webpage, which can be accessed by clicking here.

You will also be required to accept the Terms and Conditions within 30 days.  Providers and suppliers that do not wish to accept these terms and conditions are required to notify HHS within 30 days, and then remit full repayment of the relief funds.  The Terms and Conditions can be reviewed by clicking here.

How will HHS Distribute the Remaining $70 Billion in Relief Funds?

HHS has indicated that it intends to use the remaining relief funds to make targeted distributions to providers in areas particularly impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, rural providers, providers of services with lower shares of Medicare reimbursement or who predominantly serve Medicaid populations, and providers requesting reimbursement for the treatment of uninsured Americans.

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.

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 Model stakeholders that CMS recently announced in a press release an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period (IFC) that provides temporary regulatory waivers and new rules to equip the American healthcare system with maximum flexibility to respond to the 2019 COVID-19 pandemic. The IFC and all of CMS’s Coronavirus Waivers & Flexibilities can be found here.

The flexibilities offered specifically to ambulances during the Public Health Emergency (PHE) for the COVID-19 pandemic can be found at this link: Ambulances (PDF). This includes temporarily expanding the list of allowable destinations for ground ambulance transports during the COVID-19 PHE to include any destination that is equipped to treat the condition of the patient in a manner consistent with state and local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) protocols in use where the services are being furnished. These destinations may include, but are not limited to: any location that is an alternative site determined to be part of a hospital, CAH or SNF, community mental health centers, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), rural health clinics (RHCs), physician’s offices, urgent care facilities, ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), any location furnishing dialysis services outside of the ESRD facility when an ESRD facility is not available, and the beneficiary’s home. Home may be an appropriate destination for a COVID-19 patient who is discharged from the hospital to home to be under quarantine. There must be a medically necessary ground ambulance transport of a patient in order for an ambulance service to be covered.

These actions, and earlier CMS actions in response to COVID-19, are part of the ongoing White House Coronavirus Task Force efforts. To keep up with the important work the Task Force is doing in response to COVID-19, visit www.coronavirus.gov. For a complete and updated list of CMS actions, and other information specific to CMS, please visit the Current Emergencies website.

Thank you again for your interest in the Model and for your efforts to improve the quality of care in the EMS industry.

If you have any questions about this update, please contact the ET3 Model team at ET3Model@cms.hhs.gov.

Follow CMS and the CMS Innovation Center on Twitter at @CMSGov and @CMSinnovates.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has sent this Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport (ET3) Model Update. To contact Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) go to our contact us page.

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.

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.

Updated U.S. DOL Definition of Health Care Provider & Emergency Responders

The United States Department of Labor (U.S. DOL) has recently published an updated version of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) that provide further insight into which employees are included in the definition of “health care provider” and “emergency responder”.

After the final language of the FFCRA was released, there were numerous questions about which EMS agency employees were considered “emergency responders” and potentially subject to being excluded from the group of employees eligible for Emergency Paid Family and Medical Leave and Emergency Paid Sick Leave.  The U.S. DOL has provided clarification in FAQ numbers, 55-57 respectively.

55. Who is a “health care provider” for purposes of determining individuals whose advice to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19 can be relied on as a qualifying reason for paid sick leave?

The term “health care provider,” as used to determine individuals whose advice to self-quarantine due to concerns related to COVID-19 can be relied on as a qualifying reason for paid sick leave, means a licensed doctor of medicine, nurse practitioner, or other health care provider permitted to issue a certification for purposes of the FMLA.

56. Who is a “health care provider” who may be excluded by their employer from paid sick leave and/or expanded family and medical leave?

For the purposes of employees who may be exempted from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave by their employer under the FFCRA, a health care provider is anyone employed at any doctor’s office, hospital, health care center, clinic, post-secondary educational institution offering health care instruction, medical school, local health department or agency, nursing facility, retirement facility, nursing home, home health care provider, any facility that performs laboratory or medical testing, pharmacy, or any similar institution, employer, or entity. This includes any permanent or temporary institution, facility, location, or site where medical services are provided that are similar to such institutions.

This definition includes any individual employed by an entity that contracts with any of the above institutions, employers, or entities institutions to provide services or to maintain the operation of the facility. This also includes anyone employed by any entity that provides medical services, produces medical products, or is otherwise involved in the making of COVID-19 related medical equipment, tests, drugs, vaccines, diagnostic vehicles, or treatments. This also includes any individual that the highest official of a state or territory, including the District of Columbia, determines is a health care provider necessary for that state’s or territory’s or the District of Columbia’s response to COVID-19.

To minimize the spread of the virus associated with COVID-19, the Department encourages employers to be judicious when using this definition to exempt health care providers from the provisions of the FFCRA.

57. Who is an emergency responder?

For the purposes of employees who may be excluded from paid sick leave or expanded family and medical leave by their employer under the FFCRA, an emergency responder is an employee who is necessary for the provision of transport, care, health care, comfort, and nutrition of such patients, or whose services are otherwise needed to limit the spread of COVID-19. This includes but is not limited to military or national guard, law enforcement officers, correctional institution personnel, fire fighters, emergency medical services personnel, physicians, nurses, public health personnel, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, emergency management personnel, 911 operators, public works personnel, and persons with skills or training in operating specialized equipment or other skills needed to provide aid in a declared emergency as well as individuals who work for such facilities employing these individuals and whose work is necessary to maintain the operation of the facility. This also includes any individual that the highest official of a state or territory, including the District of Columbia, determines is an emergency responder necessary for that state’s or territory’s or the District of Columbia’s response to COVID-19.

To minimize the spread of the virus associated with COVID-19, the Department encourages employers to be judicious when using this definition to exempt emergency responders from the provisions of the FFCRA.

CMS Waives Restrictions on Ground Ambulances During COVID-19 Pandemic

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) promulgated an interim final rule with comment period (IFC) entitled “Policy and Regulatory Revisions in Response to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.”  Consistent with the recommendations the AAA made to CMS, for the duration of the public health emergency (PHE), the IFC allows ground ambulance service providers and suppliers to transport patients both on an emergency or non-emergency basis to any destination that is equipped to treat the condition of the patient consistent with Emergency Medical Services (EMS) protocols established by state and/or local laws where the services will be furnished.  In related guidance, CMS has suspended most Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) medical review during the emergency period due to the COVID-19 pandemic, waived patient signature requirements, and is pausing the Repetitive, Scheduled Non-Emergent Ambulance Transport Prior Authorization Model. The policies of the IFC are effective retroactively to March 1, 2020.

On March 11, the AAA sent CMS a letter specifically requesting for the agency to waive during the COVID-19 pandemic the regulatory restrictions that prevent coverage for transport to alternative destinations.  Separately, the AAA has been pressing CMS to provide relief from signature requirements. The AAA had also been working with CMS to lifting of these restrictions and others to eliminate barriers the current Medicare regulations in responding to the COVID-19 crisis.

Paying for Transports to Alternative Destinations.  During the duration of the crisis, CMS has expanded the list of destinations for which Medicare covers ambulance transportation to include all destinations, from any point of origin, that are equipped to treat the condition of the patient consistent with Emergency Medical Services (EMS) protocols established by state and/or local laws where the services will be furnished.

These destinations may include, but are not limited to: any location that is an alternative site determined to be part of a hospital, critical access hospital (CAH) or skilled nursing facility (SNF), community mental health centers, federal qualified health clinic (FQHCs), rural health clinics (RHCs), physicians’ offices, urgent care facilities, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), any location furnishing dialysis services outside of an ESRD facility when an ESRD facility is not available, and the beneficiary’s home.

This expanded list of destinations applies to medically necessary emergency and non-emergency ground ambulance transports of beneficiaries during the PHE for the COVID-19 pandemic.  The IFC does not waive the medically necessary requirements for ground ambulance transport of a patient in order for an ambulance service to be covered.

The AAA is working closely with CMS to confirm that patients who require isolation meet the medical necessity requirements.

Suspension of Audits and Relief on Patient Signatures.  In guidance released separately, CMS indicates that it is suspending nearly all audits of providers and suppliers for the duration of the PHE.

CMS has suspended most Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) medical review during the emergency period due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes pre-payment medical reviews conducted by Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) under the Targeted Probe and Educate program, and post-payment reviews conducted by the MACs, Supplemental Medical Review Contractor (SMRC) reviews and Recovery Audit Contractor (RAC). No additional documentation requests will be issued for the duration of the PHE for the COVID-19 pandemic. Targeted Probe and Educate reviews that are in process will be suspended and claims will be released and paid. Current postpayment MAC, SMRC, and RAC reviews will be suspended and released from review. This suspension of medical review activities is for the duration of the PHE. However, CMS may conduct medical reviews during or after the PHE if there is an indication of potential fraud.

CMS also indicates in this guidance that a beneficiary’s signature will not be required for proof of delivery, as it relates to durable medical equipment services, during the PHE.  In a follow-up exchange with CMS, the AAA has confirmed that this policy of not requiring a beneficiary’s signature also applies to ground ambulance providers and suppliers. The AAA has requested that this clarification for ground ambulances also be provided in a written FAQ.

Pause in the Non-Emergency Prior Authorization Model.  CMS has paused the claims processing requirements for the Repetitive, Scheduled Non-Emergent Ambulance Transport Prior Authorization Model, effective March 29 until the end of the PHE.  During this pause, claims for repetitive, scheduled non-emergent ground ambulance transports for the COVID-19 pandemic in States in which the model operates will not be stopped for pre-payment review if prior authorization has not been requested by the fourth round trip in a 30-day period. During the pause, the MAC will continue to review any prior authorization requests that have already been submitted, and ambulance suppliers may continue to submit new prior authorization requests for review during the pause. Claims that have received a provisional affirmative prior authorization decision and are submitted with an affirmed unique tracking number (UTN) will continue to be excluded from future medical review. Following the end of the PHE for the COVID-19 pandemic, the MACs will conduct postpayment review on claims otherwise subject to the model that were submitted and paid during the pause.

Telehealth Services.  While CMS does not provide authority for ambulance organizations to bill directly for telehealth services, it does modify for the duration of the PHE the “direct supervision” requirements to allow physicians enter into a contractual arrangement with an entity that provides ambulance services to allow the physician to use the ambulance organization’s personnel as auxiliary personnel under a leased agreement.  Under such circumstances, the provider or supplier would seek payment for any services it provided from the billing physician and would not submit claims to Medicare for such services directly.

Ongoing work of the AAA.  The rule does not address two critical issues:  (1) reimbursement for treatment in place and (2) direct reimbursement for telehealth services.  The AAA will continue to work with CMS and the Congress to address these issues that are critical to meeting the needs of patients and your community during the epidemic.

URGENT – CALL TO ACTION Congress Still Negotiating Stimulus Package Ambulance Specific Relief Not Yet Included: Act Now!

None of the proposals offered so far on an economic stimulus package to address the impact of COVID-19 include our specific provisions to provide ambulance relief! Negotiators on a final package failed to reach an agreement over the weekend. There is still time to influence the final outcome! Please write to your members of Congress!

There are provisions in the packages that would help businesses, first responders and Medicare providers and suppliers. However, the AAA is advocating for specific help for ambulance services with the prioritization of COVID-19 resources, coverage of services, as well as direct financial assistance. The Congress has heard directly from the AAA about our requests and they need to hear from their constituents about assistance to your operations. If you have not yet contacted your members of Congress, please do so today!

Please e-mail today the health aides for your members of Congress!

It will take you only a few minutes per congressional office to email a letter. Just follow these steps.

1. USE LETTER TEMPLATE: CLICK HERE to access a draft letter. Please customize your letter including the cities and towns you serve, if you are sending to the office of a Senator or Representative and any additional details as to services you are providing during the COVID-19 outbreak and the financial impact on your operation.

2. LOOK UP HEALTH STAFFER AND EMAIL ADDRESS: CLICK HERE to access a list of the name of the health staffer and email address for all congressional offices.

3. SEND E-MAILS TO STAFFERS: Copy and paste the email address of the health staffer and copy and paste the letter as the body of the e-mail and send.

While the Congress may not include all of our requests in this stimulus package, there are likely to be future legislative vehicles in which the AAA will continue to press for passage of additional relief for ambulance service organizations and personnel.

URGENT – CALL TO ACTION Contact Congress Today About COVID-19 Ambulance Relief!

The Congress and Administration are currently in negotiations to finalize an economic stimulus package to address the impact of COVID-19. As reported previously, the AAA has been pressing for the prioritization of COVID-19 resources and coverage of services, as well as financial assistance, for ambulance services organizations. Negotiations are expected to wrap up this weekend.

Please e-mail today the health aides for your members of Congress!

It will take you only a few minutes per congressional office to email a letter. Just follow these steps.

1. USE LETTER TEMPLATE: CLICK HERE to access a draft letter. Please customize your letter including the cities and towns you serve, if you are sending to the office of a Senator or Representative and any additional details as to services you are providing during the COVID-19 outbreak and the financial impact on your operation.

2. LOOK UP HEALTH STAFFER AND EMAIL ADDRESS: CLICK HERE to access a list of the name of the health staffer and email address for all congressional offices.

3. SEND E-MAILS TO STAFFERS: Copy and paste the email address of the health staffer and copy and paste the letter as the body of the e-mail and send.

While the Congress may not include all of our requests in this stimulus package, there are likely to be future legislative vehicles in which the AAA will continue to press for passage of additional relief for ambulance service organizations and personnel.

AAA Pushing Ambulance COVID-19 Relief

Over the past several days, the AAA has been pushing the Congress and the Administration to provide immediate financial and other relief to ambulance service organizations and their employees. EMS personnel are often the first medical professionals to come into contact with patients with COVID-19. But our members are running low on personal protection equipment and other supplies necessary to respond to the pandemic.

AAA members are providing vital medical services beyond the traditional stabilizing and transporting of patients for which they need to be reimbursed. Our members are also seeing a decrease in both emergency and non-emergency transport call volume as Americans are opting to forgo medically necessary trips to the emergency department and as elective procedures are postponed. It is important that Congress understands the short and long-term implications of our response to COVID-19 and provides critical financial relief.

To help our members in their time of need as they respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, the AAA has been advocating that Congress needs to include in the stimulus package they are developing several provisions to help ambulance service organizations. The provisions include providing ambulance service organizations priority access to PPE, authorizing CMS to waive Medicare policy and reimburse for treatment in place, reimbursing ambulance services for additional costs incurred in responding to COVID-19, suspending the payroll tax and providing all paramedics with coverage under the Public Safety Officers’ Benefit (PSOB) and a tax credit for training and uniforms.

For the details of our requests of the Congress, please access our position paper.

While the Congress is working on its third stimulus package which it is expected to complete in the next few days, it is likely not to be the last. With this package moving so quickly, the AAA has been working with a targeted list of AAA members in the states and districts of key policymakers to the negotiations. We will be issuing in the near term a Call To Action to the entire AAA membership with the request for everyone to contact their members of Congress with our list of requests. We hope you will answer the call.

The AAA will continue over the next weeks and months to push the Congress and Administration on our requests to help ambulance service organizations. Thank you for your support.

AAA Sends Letter to CMS on COVID-19 Response

The AAA has sent a letter to CMS on how the agency can most help ground ambulance service providers and suppliers be better prepared to respond to potential cases of COVID-19. The AAA has requested priority access to personal protection equipment for EMS personnel and COVID-19 test kits and results, as well as easing Medicare and Medicaid policies on alternative destinations and treatment in place. The letter was also sent to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR). Read the letter HERE.

Read the Letter