Novitas Issues Guidance for Ambulance Providers, Facilities and Beneficiaries Regarding Expansion of Prior Authorization Project for Repetitive Patients

September 17, 2015

Novitas Solutions, Inc. (Novitas) recently issued a series of guidance documents on the expansion of the prior authorization demonstration project for repetitive scheduled non-emergency ambulance transports. This demonstration project is currently operating in the states of New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (Pub. Law 114-10), enacted on April 16, 2015, requires that this program be expanded into the remaining states of MAC Regions L (Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia) and M (North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia), effective January 1, 2016. The program will be further expanded to cover all remaining states starting on January 1, 2017.

Novitas is the Medicare Administrative Contractor for MAC Region L, and therefore will be responsible for implementing this program in Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia. These guidance documents are intended to educate ambulance services, health care professionals and facilities, and beneficiaries located in these states on the programs requirements.

Guidance Document for Ambulance Services

On August 17, 2015, Novitas issued a “Dear Ambulance Company” letter that provides guidance to ambulance companies on how the program will operate. As noted in the letter, participation is voluntary.

However, ambulance services that elect not to seek prior authorization for repetitive patients (defined as a patient that is transported by non-emergency ambulance for the same service either: (1) three or more times in a 10-day period or (2) once a week for three straight weeks) will find that claims for these patients will be subject to a prepayment review. For this reason, it is anticipated that most ambulance services will elect to seek prior authorization for their repetitive patient population.

The letter further summarizes the documentation requirements needed to request prior authorization for a patient. These include the submission of a prior authorization cover sheet (which can be found on Novitas’ website), a valid Physician Certification Statement (PCS) signed by the beneficiary’s attending physician within sixty (60) days of the requested first transport date, and all other medical records supporting medical necessity.

Novitas will review the submitted documentation and issue either a prior authorization covering all transports within a set date range, or a rejection. To the extent an application is rejected, the provider will be entitled to resubmit the application with additional documentation to support medical necessity.

Guidance Document for Health Care Professionals and Facilities

On August 24, 2015, Novitas issued a “Dear Healthcare Provider/Facility” letter that provides guidance to physicians, healthcare practitioners, and facilities on how the prior authorization project will operate. This letter includes bolded language that indicates that these individuals and facilities must provide certain records to the transporting ambulance service and/or the beneficiary. The letter specifically includes a statement that “[a]ttending physicians must provide a physician certification statement (PCS) and medical records that support medical necessity.” Members may want to download copies of this letter for distribution to physicians and facilities from which they may need to obtain PCS forms and other medical records.

Guidance Document for Beneficiaries

On August 20, 2015, Novitas issued a “Dear Medicare Beneficiary” letter that is intended to educate Medicare beneficiaries on the operation of the prior authorization project. The letter indicates that the pre-approval process is intended to allow the beneficiary to know whether his or her transports will be covered by Medicare prior to the provision of services. The letter indicates that either the beneficiary or the ambulance service can obtain a prior authorization, but notes that the ambulance provider will typically be the one submitting requests. Members may want to download copies of this letter for distribution to beneficiaries and their families.

AAA to hold Prior Authorization Workshop on October 2, 2015

The AAA will be holding a one-day workshop devoted exclusively to the prior authorization program. The workshop will take place on October 2, 2015 at the AAA Headquarters located in McLean, Virginia. This workshop will feature representatives from both Novitas and Palmetto (the MAC for Region M), who will be able to provide additional details on how the project will operate in their areas. Dr. William Rogers from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will also be in attendance to offer CMS’ perspective on this new program. This is a wonderful opportunity for CEOs and senior ambulance executives in the affected states to hear first-hand how this project will impact their ambulance services.

Submit Comments on Proposed Rule to CY2016 Fee Schedule Changes

 

On July 8, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a copy of its proposed rule for changes to the Medicare ambulance fee schedule for 2016.  The AAA has drafted a comment letter requesting that CMS make several modifications to improve the methodology and data used for determining urban and rural areas under the fee schedule.  We urge all AAA members to use our letter as a template to submit a similar comment letter to CMS.

Here is how to submit a comment letter.

1) Download the draft template of the AAA comment letter.

2) Modify the letter in the highlighted areas to customize it to your organization.

3) Submit the comment letter by going to the Regulations.gov submissions webpage for the proposed rule at http://www.regulations.gov/#!submitComment;D=CMS-2015-0081-0002

If you have any questions about submitting a comment letter, please contact AAA Senior Vice President Tristan North at tnorth@ambulance.org

CMS Issues Proposed Rule for Calendar Year 2016

On July 8, 2015, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a display copy of a proposed rule titled “Medicare Program; Revisions to Payment Policies under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2016”.  The proposed rule makes a number of changes to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule.  It also makes certain changes to the Medicare Ambulance Fee Schedule.  These proposed changes are summarized below.

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Join Our Efforts to Receive Permanent Medicare Relief

After countless hours of work by the American Ambulance Association’s (AAA) legislative team, our champions on Capitol Hill, volunteer leaders, members and other organizations, we are pleased to once again announce the 33-month extension of Medicare ambulance relief.  This extension will continue the 2% bonus for urban areas, the 3% bonus for rural transports and the bonus payment for super rural areas.  This is a major victory for the AAA and its members as the extension will supply important funding to allow ambulance services to continue to provide essential medical care to their communities.

That being said, we can’t let the momentum stop!  The AAA is still fighting and pushing on Capitol Hill for a permanent extension of Medicare relief rather than a temporary fix.  With a short-term extension it remains difficult for ambulance services to properly budget for the future and prepare for the uncertainties of being a health care provider.  The AAA continues to seek support and cosponsors for the Medicare Ambulance, Access, Fraud Prevention, and reform Act of 2015 (S. 377, H.R. 745).  In addition to permanent Medicare ambulance relief, this bill includes several additional provisions that will help ambulance services to grow and provide critical care services to patients.  These additional provisions include:

–     Categorizing ambulance services as “providers” rather than “suppliers”. The AAA wants its members and all ambulance services to be recognized properly for the medical services they provide.  As you are aware, an ambulance is often the first place that a patient is provided critical care and service.  For this reason, the bill includes language that would recognize ambulance services as “providers” rather than “suppliers”.

–     Prior Authorization Program. The same bill that extended Medicare ambulance relief for 33 months also included a prior authorization program that would extend to several states on the East Coast in 2016 and nationwide in 2017.  The AAA is working with legislators on Capitol Hill, our Medicare Consultants, and AAA members to help with the roll-out of the prior authorization program.  Keep your eyes peeled for further information and resources that the AAA will be providing.

–     Ambulance Cost Data Collection. The bill directs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to use a survey approach to collecting cost data from a statistically significant number of ambulance service providers.  It is critical that Congress have cost data from all the different types of providers to make future changes to the ambulance fee schedule.

With each of these significant provisions, the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act of 2015 will help position AAA members and ambulance services for the future.  It will provide critical funding as well as opportunities for recognition, growth and knowledge.

Shawn Baird, Co-Owner of Woodburn Ambulance Service and Co-Chair of the AAA’s Government Affairs Committee, said this about the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act of 2015

“While the extension of our temporary ambulance relief provides hard earned breathing room, it is more essential than ever to get members of Congress signed on as co-sponsors of our permanent ambulance relief bills S. 377 and H.R. 745.  Using this precious time to secure permanent funding, data collection that works for the industry and provider status with CMS is the only way we will be able to keep our issue a priority on Congress’s busy agenda. In our ambulance services at home we all know how important it is to keep pushing our companies to be ready for that next emergency call.   We never say it’s time to sit back and relax now that we ran that last call. It is the same with our effort on Capitol Hill. We have been building success and let’s keep it rolling forward!”

The American Ambulance Association asks that you help in our efforts to make Medicare ambulance relief permanent!   Please contact your members of Congress using the AAA’s online letter writing tool and ask them to co-sponsor the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Acts (S. 377 and H.R. 745).

Each member of the AAA plays a critical role in helping to achieve success in our legislative efforts.  With your help and expertise, we look to continue to represent you and your interests on Capitol Hill.

CMS Releases Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data for CY 2013

On June 1, 2015, CMS publicly released the “Medicare Provider Utilization and Payment Data: Physician and Other Supplier Public Use File”, which provides information on the services and procedures provided to Medicare beneficiaries by ambulance suppliers, physicians and other healthcare provider groups. The data file is based on calendar year 2013 data. This release follows on last year’s release of payment data for calendar year 2012.

The database lists all individual and organizations providers by National Provider Identifier (NPI), and provides information on utilization, total payments and submitted charges. It can also be searched by Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) code and place of service.

The Public Use File can be obtained by clicking here: http://www.cms.gov/Research-Statistics-Data-and-Systems/Statistics-Trends-and-Reports/Medicare-Provider-Charge-Data/Physician-and-Other-Supplier.html. Please note that you will need to download the desired file and then import it into an appropriate database or statistical software program. CMS is indicating that Microsoft Excel is not sufficient for these purposes, and that importing it into Excel may result in an incomplete loading of data.

A number of news organizations have already created searchable databases that will allow you to search the 2012 data by physician/organizational name, provider specialty, city, state, etc. It is expected that these news organizations will be updating their websites to incorporate the 2013 data in the coming weeks. The searchable database created by the Wall Street Journal can be accessed by clicking here: http://projects.wsj.com/medicarebilling/?mod=medicarein.

Ask Your Members of Congress to Cosponsor Permanent Medicare Relief Legislation

Yesterday morning, Congressmen Walden, Welch, Nunes and Neal sent a Dear Colleague to their fellow members of the House of Representatives asking them to cosponsor the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act of 2015 (S. 377, H.R. 745). This bill will make the current temporary ambulance add-on payments permanent for all ambulance services.

Even with our recent victory of a temporary 33-month extension of crucial Medicare ambulance relief, our Champions on Capitol Hill realize the importance of receiving permanent Medicare relief. They, like every ambulance service across the country, understand that a permanent solution is necessary to provide quality health care to individuals and our communities both today and tomorrow.

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Ask Your Members of Congress to Cosponsor Permanent Medicare Relief Legislation

Yesterday morning, Congressmen Walden, Welch, Nunes and Neal sent a Dear Colleague to their fellow members of the House of Representatives asking them to cosponsor the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act of 2015 (S. 377, H.R. 745). This bill will make the current temporary ambulance add-on payments permanent for all ambulance services.

Even with our recent victory of a temporary 33-month extension of crucial Medicare ambulance relief, our Champions on Capitol Hill realize the importance of receiving permanent Medicare relief. They, like every ambulance service across the country, understand that a permanent solution is necessary to provide quality health care to individuals and our communities both today and tomorrow.

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Ambulance Open Door Forum, April 22, H.R. 2

CMS held its latest Ambulance Open Door Forum on April 22. It started with the following two announcements:

– H.R. 2 was signed into law extending the temporary ambulance adjustments through December 31, 2017. The adjustments are 2% (urban pick-ups), 3% (rural) and 22.6% (super rural).

– For free standing facilities, use the “P” modifier if the facility is not part of the hospital and use “H” if it is hospital-based.
Following these announcements, there was a Question and Answer period. Most of the questions were not answered on the call and the caller was asked to submit their questions to CMS, or was told to ask their Medicare Administrative Contractor or was told to appeal the denied claim referenced in their question. A few were answered, as follows:

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Senate Delays Vote on SGR Repeal Package

Early this morning after completing action on a FY 2016 Senate Budget Resolution, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that the Senate would not act on legislation (H.R. 2) to permanently repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for physicians until after the Easter recess. H.R. 2 includes the 33-month extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance increases. Senate Majority Leader McConnell had sought consideration today of H.R. 2 under unanimous consent which requires the support of all 100 Senators. There were objections to the expedited vote and thus the Senate is now expected to consider the bill when it returns on April 14.

The temporary Medicare ambulance increases expire on March 31. However, contractors have a standard requirement to hold all Medicare claims for 14 days before making payment. The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a notice to contractors formally directing them to utilize this hold. So if the Senate does complete action on H.R. 2 on April 14 there will be no need for reprocessing any claims for the retroactive increases. Should action on H.R. 2 be delayed further, Congress could do a short-term extension or simply allow the provisions to expire for a short period of time. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have both stated they would like quick consideration of H.R. 2 when the Senate returns.

We will continue to keep you posted of new developments.

House Votes in Favor of Permanent Doc Fix, Bill Moves to the Senate

Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of H.R. 2, doing away with Medicare’s sustainable growth-rate formula and passing a permanent doc fix. The 392-37 vote was overwhelmingly bipartisan. As we reported on March 24, thanks to our champions on Capitol Hill, a 33-month extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance increases was included in the bill. If enacted, the bill would extend the deadline for expiration of Medicare ambulance relief from March 31 until December 31, 2017.

The Senate still needs to pass the bill and is working on a short time-line before they adjourn for recess. Senate Republicans and Democrats have expressed concerns about different aspects of the bill so it is unclear whether the chamber will consider H.R. 2 before it recesses. It is also uncertain if Congress would pass a short-term extension to give the Senate more time or if CMS would be required to formalize its 14-day claim hold policy should H.R. 2 not be enacted before March 31.

In addition to Medicare ambulance relief, the package also includes language from the Protecting Integrity of Medicare Act (H.R. 1021) expanding the current prior authorization pilot programs on repetitive BLS non-emergency ambulance transports in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Starting in January 2016, the bill would expand the programs to Delaware, DC, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia. The program would then expand nationwide starting in January 2017.

The AAA will continue to push for the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act (S. 377, H.R. 745). S. 377 and H.R. 745 would make the current temporary ambulance increases permanent and place our industry in a strong position moving forward for data-driven reforms to the ambulance fee schedule. S. 377 and H.R. 745 would also address fraud and abuse with repetitive BLS non-emergency dialysis transports. While a similar program to the current pilot programs. The prior authorization within S. 377 and H.R. 745 would apply only to dialysis transports and would institute additional safeguards to ensure timely prior authorization for medically necessary transports.

I want to thank all AAA members, staff and consultants who continue to work tirelessly on extending essential Medicare ambulance relief. We will keep you posted of new developments.

House SGR Repeal Package Contains Ambulance Relief Extension

Earlier today, House Republican and Democratic leadership released the complete package (H.R. 2) for a permanent fix to the physician fee schedule. I am happy to report that the AAA through our champions on Capitol Hill was successful in getting a 33-month extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance increases included in the bill. If enacted, the bill would extend the deadline for expiration of Medicare ambulance relief from March 31 until December 31, 2017.

The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2 on either Thursday or Friday prior to adjourning for the two-week Easter recess. The bill is currently expected to pass the House with bipartisan support. Senate Republicans and Democrats have expressed concerns about different aspects of the bill so it is unclear whether the chamber will consider H.R. 2 before it recesses. It is also unclear if Congress would pass a short-term extension to give the Senate more time or if CMS would be required to formalize its 14-day claim hold policy should H.R. 2 not be enacted before March 31.

The package also includes language from the Protecting Integrity of Medicare Act (H.R. 1021) expanding the current prior authorization pilot programs on repetitive BLS non-emergency ambulance transports in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Starting in January 2016, the bill would expand the programs to Delaware, DC, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia. The program would then expand nationwide starting in January 2017.

The AAA continues to push for the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act (S. 377, H.R. 745). S. 377 and H.R. 745 would make the current temporary Medicare ambulance increases permanent and place our industry in a strong position moving forward for data-driven reforms to the ambulance fee schedule. S. 377 and H.R. 745 would also address fraud and abuse with repetitive BLS non-emergency dialysis transports. While a similar program to the current pilot programs, the prior authorization within S. 377 and H.R. 745 would apply only to dialysis transports and would institute additional safeguards to ensure timely prior authorization for medically necessary transports.

We will keep you posted of new developments.

Permanent Medicare Ambulance Relief

Please reach out to your members of Congress and ask that they cosponsor the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act (H.R. 745, S. 377) and support an extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance add-on payments.  H.R. 745 and S. 377 would make the current temporary Medicare increases of 2% urban, 3% rural and the super rural bonus payment permanent. Please also ask your members of Congress to support an extension of the increases, which expire on March 31.

In the next few weeks, Congress is expected to consider an extension of the temporary fix to the physician fee schedule. This package would also be the legislative vehicle for an extension of the Medicare ambulance add-on payments. An extension of these increases will ensure the continuation of short-term relief while we push to make the increases permanent. So please write today!

Thank you in advance for writing to your members of Congress.

Permanent Medicare Ambulance Relief Bills Introduced in Congress

I am extremely happy to report our Senate and House champions on Medicare ambulance relief introduced on Wednesday the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act of 2015 (S. 377, H.R. 745). Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Senate bill (S. 377) and Congressmen Greg Walden (R-OR), Peter Welch (D-VT), Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Richard Neal (D-MA) introduced the House bill (H.R. 745).