Tag: 2020

Submit Comments on Ambulance Data Collection System

Yesterday, the AAA submitted our comment letter to the proposed rule on changes for FY2020 to the Medicare ambulance fee schedule. The comment letter focused on the section of the proposed rule on the ambulance data collection system. For a copy of the detailed 28-page comment letter, please click here.

Read the AAA Comment Letter

The AAA is very pleased with the approach CMS is taking on data collection which is consistent with the intent of the Congress and the methodology developed and advocated by the AAA. While the AAA comment letter is extremely detailed, our only concern is CMS was not able to test or pilot the sampling methodology and data collection instrument prior to inclusion in the proposed rule. Testing would have allowed CMS to fine-tune the survey and may impact the quality of the first year of data.

Now, it is important that AAA members submit their own letters to demonstrate support for the AAA letter and its key points.

AAA members should go to www.regulations.gov and make three points as follows:

  • Our organization supports the approach CMS is proposing to collect ambulance data and we thank CMS and its contractors.
  • Since CMS was unable to test the sampling methodology and data collection tool, we are concerned about the potential quality of the first year of data. We therefore ask CMS to begin education of ambulance service suppliers and providers and work with the American Ambulance Association to adjust the methodology and tool, if necessary, for future data collections.
  • We fully support the specific comments submitted by the American Ambulance Association as to recommended improvements to the data collection tool.

All you need to do is click on www.regulations.gov and include the above three points. Add your first and last name and click “continue” to then finalize your submission.

The AAA has also developed a sample comment letter you can access by clicking here. Go to www.regulations.gov and instead of adding the three points in the comment back, upload your letter.  Please draft your own customized letter using the letter provided by the AAA as a guideline.

Sample Comment Letter

Comments are due by 5:00 pm on Friday, September 27, so please submit your comment letter today! Please also feel free to forward this email to state ambulance associations and other ambulance service organizations.

The AAA will be submitting a second letter in the next week just on seeking clarification around changes to PCS requirements in the proposed rule but will not be asking members to submit similar comments.

We greatly appreciate the work of CMS and its contractors in developing the ambulance data collection system.

Thank you in advance to all of you who take the time to submit comment letters.

Questions?: Contact Us:

If you have questions about the legislation or regulatory initiatives being undertaken by the AAA, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the AAA Government Affairs Team.

Tristan North – Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
tnorth@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9025

Aidan Camas – Manager of State & Federal Government Affairs
acamas@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9026

Thank you for your continued membership and support.

CMS Announces Extension of Prior Authorization Program

On September 16, 2019, CMS published a notice in the Federal Register that it would be extending the prior authorization demonstration project for another year. The extension is limited to those states where prior authorization was in effect for calendar year 2019. The affected states are Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. The extension will run through December 1, 2020. 

In its notice, CMS indicated that the prior authorization demonstration project is being extended “while we continue to work towards nationwide expansion.”  This strongly suggests that CMS believes the program has met the statutory requirements for nationwide expansion under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.  However, CMS indicated that it would use the additional year to continue to test whether prior authorization helps reduce expenditures, while maintaining or improving the quality of care offered to Medicare beneficiaries.

CMS has also updated its CMS Ambulance Prior Authorization webpage to reflect the expansion of prior authorization in the existing states through December 1, 2020.

Preliminary Calculation of 2020 Ambulance Inflation Update

Section 1834(l)(3)(B) of the Social Security Act mandates that the Medicare Ambulance Fee Schedule be updated each year to reflect inflation. This update is referred to as the “Ambulance Inflation Factor” or “AIF”.

The AIF is calculated by measuring the increase in the consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) for the 12-month period ending with June of the previous year. Starting in calendar year 2011, the change in the CPI-U is now reduced by a so-called “productivity adjustment”, which is equal to the 10-year moving average of changes in the economy-wide private nonfarm business multi-factor productivity index (MFP). The MFP reduction may result in a negative AIF for any calendar year. The resulting AIF is then added to the conversion factor used to calculate Medicare payments under the Ambulance Fee Schedule.

For the 12-month period ending in June 2019, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has calculated that the CPI-U has increased by 1.65%.

CMS has yet to release its estimate for the MFP in calendar year 2020. However, assuming CMS’ projections for the MFP are similar to last year’s projections, the number is likely to be in the 0.6% range.

Accordingly, the AAA is currently projecting that the 2020 Ambulance Inflation Factor will be approximately 1.1%. 

Cautionary Note Regarding these Estimates

Members should be advised that the BLS’ calculations of the CPI-U are preliminary, and may be subject to later adjustment. The AAA further cautions members that CMS has not officially announced the MFP for CY 2020. Therefore, it is possible that these numbers may change. The AAA will notify members once CMS issues a transmittal setting forth the official 2020 Ambulance Inflation Factor.

Congress Passes Ambulance Medicare Add-Ons

 

It is my pleasure to share with you that—just minutes ago—Congress passed the 5 year extension of the Medicare ambulance add-ons. The extension was part of the two-year budget deal reached by congressional leaders and passed by the Senate early this morning and then shortly thereafter by the House. The ambulance provisions in the final deal differ from the provisions passed earlier this week by the House in one key area – the collection of ambulance cost data. This means that we are truly in the endzone of the add-on payment extension process.

While we ask your continued patience as we jump through one last procedural hoop, I am confident that the add-ons will be back in effect as soon as the President signs the legislation. In today’s deeply divided political climate, I am proud of what we have accomplished through collaboration as an association and industry.

Here are the specifics of the final package:

  • 5 year extension of the ambulance Medicare add-ons through December 31, 2022, retroactive to January 1, 2018.
  • AAA’s preferred method of Cost data collection that provides flexibility to the Secretary of HHS in developing the system. Consultation with the industry is required so that it strikes the appropriate balance between obtaining meaningful data while not overly burdening or onerously penalizing the ambulance services.
  • The penalty for failing to report required data would be a reduction in payment up to 10% for the year following the year in which the data should have been submitted. AAA objected to the house proposed penalty of up to a year of Medicare payments clawback or withholding of payments. A clause is included to wave the penalty in cases of hardship.
  • A “pay-for” for the 5-year extension of the add-ons with a 13% cut to non-emergent dialysis transports – the AAA had objected to the offset and pushed for a cut targeted to just those entities which abuse the dialysis transport benefit. We were successful in reducing the initial cut from 22% to 13%. The AAA is actively working on other pay-for options that would replace the 13% cut with something targeting dialysis fraud and abuse.

Next Steps

All that remains to bring the add-ons into effect retroactively to January 1, 2018 are a few administrative formalities and the signature of the President, who has indicated his support of the agreement. Given the government shutdown, we are cautiously optimistic that this will proceed quickly. However, bumps are always a possibility—we will keep you informed! (Follow AAA on Twitter at @amerambassoc or Facebook for instant updates.)

Thank You

This week’s tremendous progress would not have been possible without months of effort by AAA volunteer leaders, advocacy experts, and staff, as well as support from our key champions in Congress.

I’d like to personally thank the AAA Government Affairs Committee, including Chair Jamie Pafford-Gresham and Vice Chair Shawn Baird, as well as the entire AAA Board for their hundreds of hours of hard work on this issue. We are all truly grateful for your dedication to moving mountains to find sustainable funding for EMS.

Last but certainly not least, thank you to the dozens of state ambulance associations and thousands of individual members who wrote letters to their Members of Congress in support of the add-ons. We truly couldn’t have made it this far without your support.

Again, thank you, and please stay tuned for final updates!

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

House Passes Ambulance Medicare Add-Ons

Moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation which includes a five-year extension of the Medicare ambulance add-ons. The House voted 245 to 182 to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government beyond the current expiration date of February 8. The CR included a package of Medicare provider extenders including an extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance add-ons.

The ambulance provisions in the CR include the following:

  • A five-year extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance increases of 2% urban and 3% rural to base and mileage rates and 22.6% to the base rate in super rural areas. The extension would be retroactive to January 1, 2018 and expire on December 31, 2022.
  • The requirement for ambulance service suppliers to submit cost reports. The language is based on H.R. 3729 as reported by the House Ways and Means Committee but with new language providing the CMS Administrator with the discretion to apply a payment suspension or overpayment as the penalty for suppliers that do not submit timely, accurate and complete data after the initial two years.
  • To offset the cost of the add-ons extension, a further reduction of 13% in Medicare reimbursement for BLS non-emergency transports to and from dialysis centers. The initial reduction was 22% but the AAA was able to help lower the estimated cost of the add-ons and thus lower the percentage of the offsetting cut.

The CR now goes to the Senate for its consideration. The Senate is likely to act tomorrow, February 7.

We will keep you posted of new developments. Thank you for your continued support of the American Ambulance Association.

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