CMS “Pauses” Prior Authorization Model for Scheduled, Repetitive Non-Emergency Ambulance Transportation

CMS released published a guidance document summarizing some of the steps that it has taken to relieve the administrative burden on health care providers and suppliers during the current public health emergency.  As part of that document, CMS indicated that it will be “pausing” the Prior Authorization Model for scheduled, repetitive non-emergency ambulance transports.  Under…

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CMS Releases Update Guidance on Hospital EMTALA Obligations Related to COVID-19

On March 9, 2020, CMS published a memorandum to State Survey Agency Directors that provides updated guidance on the obligations of hospitals and critical access hospitals (CAHs) under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA).  This guidance was issued in response to numerous inquiries regarding the EMTALA obligations of these facilities as they struggle…

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CMS Grants State of Florida’s 1135 Waiver Request for Coronavirus Response

On March 16, 2020, CMS approved an 1135 Waiver request submitted by the State of Florida. The State had requested the flexibility to waive prior authorization requirements, streamline its Medicaid enrollment process, and allow care to be provided in alternative settings to the extent an existing health care facility needs to be evacuated. The key…

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Understanding Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP Coverage of Ambulance Services under a Declared National State of Emergency

On March 13, 2020, President Donald J. Trump announced a national state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, HHS Secretary Alex Azar had declared a public health emergency under Section 319 of the Public Health Service Act in response to COVID-19. This has prompted many AAA members to ask what impact, if…

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CMS Announces New Healthy Adult Opportunity Initiative

On January 30, 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the roll-out of its “Healthy Adult Opportunity” (HAO) initiative.  Under the initiative, participating states will have a portion of their current federal Medicaid funding converted to block grants.  In return, the states will gain greater flexibility in providing for the health care…

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CMS Open Door Forum & Member Q&A – November 7th

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has scheduled its next Ambulance Open Door Forum for Thursday, November 7 from 2:00-3:30 PM Eastern. If you plan to attend, please dial in at least 15 minutes before the call.

CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum

November 7 | 2:00 PM ET
Participant Dial-In Number:  1-888-455-1397
Conference ID #: 4676500

Questions?

Have more questions? The AAA is here to help! Following the ODF the AAA will be publishing a follow up blog post going over any updates and important announcements.

AAA Follow Up Q&A

November 7 | 4:00 PM ET
1-800-250-2600
Pin: 82802314#
Speakers: AAA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Tristan North; AAA Healthcare Lobbyist, Kathy Lester, Esq.

CMS Open Door Forum & Member Q&A – August 28

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has scheduled its next Ambulance Open Door Forum for Wednesday, August 28 at 2:00 PM Eastern. If you plan to attend, please dial in at least 15 minutes before the call. CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum August 28 | 2:00 PM ET Participant Dial-In Number:  1-888-455-1397 Conference ID #: 6609831 Questions?…

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UPDATED: CMS Open Door Forum – Thursday, March 28

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has scheduled its next Ambulance Open Door Forum for Thursday, March 28 at 2:00 PM Eastern. If you plan to attend, please dial in at least 15 minutes before the call.

CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum

March 28 | 2:00 PM ET
Participant Dial-In Number:  1-800-837-1935
Conference ID #: 6695896

Questions?

Have more questions? The AAA is here to help! Following the ODF the AAA will be publishing a follow up blog post going over any updates and important announcements.

CMS ET3 Model Webinar & Follow Up AAA Member Q&A Call – Wednesday, Feb. 27

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has scheduled a webinar on the new Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport (ET3) Model announced on February 14, 2019. The webinar will be held on Wednesday, February 27th at 1:00 PM Eastern. Registration is open. CMS ET3 Model Webinar February 27 | 1:00 PM ET Questions? Have more questions? The…

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AAA Releases 2019 State Medicaid Ambulance Rate Survey

The AAA is pleased to release its 2019 State Medicaid Rate Survey. This survey sets forth the fee-for-service Medicaid rates for all 50 states. For each state, the Survey lists the rate paid for each of the following procedure codes: A0428 – BLS Non-Emergency A0429 – BLS Emergency A0426 – ALS Non-Emergency A0427 – ALS…

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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 the AAA as soon as the details are made public. 

CMS Extends Moratorium on Non-Emergency Ground Services

CMS Extends Temporary Moratorium on Non-Emergency Ground Ambulance Services in New Jersey and Pennsylvania The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that it intends to extend the temporary moratoria on the enrollment of new Medicare Part B non-emergency ground ambulance providers and suppliers in the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  The…

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Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule 2018

On Thursday, July 12, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the “Revisions to Payment Policies under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Revisions to Part B for CY 2019; Medicare Shared Savings Program Requirements; Quality Payment Program; and Medicaid Promoting Interoperability Program” Proposed Rule (Proposed Rule). As you know, the American Ambulance…

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CMS Open Door Forum & Follow Up AAA Member Q&A Call – Thursday, June 14

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has scheduled its next Ambulance Open Door Forum for Thursday, June 14 at 2:00 PM Eastern. If you plan to attend, please dial in at least 15 minutes before the call.

CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum

June 14 | 2:00 PM ET
Participant Dial-In Number:  1-800-837-1935
Conference ID #: 33271311

Questions?

Have more questions? The AAA is here to help! Following the Open Door Forum, the AAA will host a Q&A conference call open to all members.

AAA Follow Up Q&A

June 14 | 3:00 PM ET
1-800-250-2600
Pin: 73556603#
Speakers: AAA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Tristan North; AAA Medicare Consultant, Brian Werfel, Esq.; AAA Healthcare Lobbyist, Kathy Lester, Esq.; AAA Medicare Regulatory Committee Chair, Rebecca Williamson; and AAA Medicare Regulatory Committee Vice-Chair, Angie McLain

March CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum & Follow Up Q&A

CMS LogoThe next CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum is scheduled for Wednesday, March 7 at 2:00 PM Eastern. Please dial in at least 15 minutes before the call. View Agenda.

CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum
March 7 | 2:00 PM ET
1-800-837-1935
Conference ID: 31612304

Questions?

Have questions after the CMS Open Door Forum? The AAA is here to help! Following the Open Door Forum, the AAA will host a Q&A conference call open to all members.

AAA Follow Up Q&A
March 7 | 3:00 PM ET
1-800-250-2600
Pin: 73556603#

December CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum & Follow Up Q&A

CMS LogoThe next CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum is scheduled for Thursday, December 14 at 2:00 PM Eastern. Please dial in at least 15 minutes before the call. View Agenda.

CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum
December 14 | 2:00 PM ET
1-800-837-1935
Conference ID: 61764351

Questions?

Have questions after the CMS Open Door Forum? The AAA is here to help! Following the Open Door Forum, the AAA will host a Q&A conference call open to all members.

AAA Follow Up Q&A
December 14 | 3:00 PM ET
1-800-250-2600
Pin: 82802314#

Response to Kaiser Health News Ambulance Billing Article

Below is the American Ambulance Association’s Response to a recent Kaiser Health News article on ambulance billing. It was reprinted in several metropolitan areas on November 20, 2017.

To the Editor:

I write today in response to Melissa Bailey’s November 20 piece about ambulance balance (“surprise”) billing. While we disagree with the characterization of ambulance services in the article, we welcome the ongoing public dialogue about how unsustainable reimbursement for emergency medical services results in cost-shifting to patients.

Missing from the article is a true understanding of the sky-high cost of readiness for emergency medical services. Ambulance service providers offer their communities 24/7/365 on-demand mobile healthcare. Skilled staff and ambulances—high-tech emergency rooms on wheels—are ready to respond to a 9-1-1 call at a moment’s notice to help patients with issues ranging from stroke to heart attack to trauma to childbirth. EMS is also on the very front lines of the surge in opioid overdoses, providing naloxone (Narcan) to hundreds of patients each day. Keeping supplies, medications, equipment, and personnel at-the-ready requires a significant ongoing investment, regardless of whether or not an ambulance is out responding to a call. Cost comparisons between EMS and the rideshare app Uber may make for catchy sound bites, but they are misleading and misguided.

The piece states that our nation’s 14,000 ambulance service providers received 1,200 Better Business Bureau complaints spread over three years. While certainly not optimal, this is a tiny, unrepresentative fraction of the tens of millions of responses ambulance service providers conduct annually. In fact, BBB 2016 statistics show that ambulance services receive far fewer complaints than hospitals, physicians, dentists, and many other trusted healthcare providers.

The article also offhandedly mentions that balance billing occurs when private insurers and ambulance service providers are unable to agree about fair reimbursement rates. This glosses over the dark reality that it would be hard to categorize the process that occurs between the insurer and ambulance services as a “negotiation.” Instead, insurers often present an all-or-nothing proposition to force ambulance service providers to accept contracts at unsustainably low reimbursement rates. Unlike the multi-billion dollar insurance behemoths, most ambulance services are small and operate on razor-thin margins. In fact, 73% of ambulance services provide fewer than 1,000 Medicare transports per year—just three per day. Ambulance services do not turn down insurance network contracts out of greed, but instead out of necessity. Facing reimbursement rates below the cost of the services they provide, they must decline these agreements in order to keep their doors open and continue to provide healthcare to their communities. Unfortunately, this sometimes creates a situation where out-of-network ambulance costs are shouldered by patients via balance billing, instead of insurers.

In addition to challenges receiving fair compensation from private insurance, EMS is stretched thin by ultra-low Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates. In fact, in 2007 and 2012 GAO studies showed that without temporary, Congress-authorized percentage increases in EMS payments, ambulance services would receive reimbursement from government payors below the cost of operations. These are often the very same unsustainable rates that private insurers are attempting to strong-arm EMS providers into accepting for network contracts.

Finally, when someone calls 9-1-1 in need of emergency medical care, it is key to recall that, unlike in other industries, an ambulance responds regardless of the patient’s ability to pay. In many cases, the patient does not have insurance and is financially unable to reimburse the ambulance service provider. Therefore, EMS provides a significant amount of uncompensated care, the cost of which must be spread across all payors in order for them to continue their life-saving operations.

Ambulance services provide an essential, on-demand healthcare benefit to their communities. Unfortunately our current healthcare payment structure means that much of this care is not compensated equitably, resulting in the necessity of balance billing patients. While there are no quick fixes for this issue, we encourage consumers to educate themselves about their own insurance coverage. We also ask for your support of legislation that provides sustainable reimbursement for ambulance providers, including the bipartisan US Senate Bill 967. Together, we can ensure the future of mobile healthcare in our great nation.

Mark Postma
President
American Ambulance Association
“Representing EMS In America”