Tag: ambulance cost education

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

Legislative hurdles check hazard pay, PSOB benefits

Frustration mounts as small print delays the HEROES Act, and presents a dual standard for provider benefits for the fallen

May 22 at 2:20 PM | EMS1 | By AAA Communications Chair Rob Lawrence

In  my last EMS One-stop column, I commented on the legislative to-do list to ensure that EMS receives the federal support it deserves right now as we staff the front lines and perhaps brace ourselves for COVID-19 round two as the nation craves a return to the normality and liberty enjoyed before the lockdown.

On May 15, 2020, the much talked about HEROES Act narrowly passed from the U.S. House of Representatives by a 208 to 199 vote to the Republican-controlled Senate.  The HEROES Act proposed $3 trillion in tax cuts and spending to address the negative health and financial impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This included benefits for the public safety community, extensions to enhanced unemployment benefits, debt collection relief, direct cash payments to households and possibly even hazard pay.

Continue reading►

CMS Modifies the Cost Data Collection System Year 1 Data Collection

CMS has issued a blanket waiver modifying the data collection period for the ground ambulance services that were selected to report in Year 1.  Under the current law, these organizations would have been required to collect data beginning January 1, 2020, and through December 31, 2020.  The waiver allows these organizations to select a new continuous 12-month data collection period that begins between January 1, 2021 and ends December 31, 2021.  This modification means that such organizations will collect and report data during the same time period as the ground organizations that CMS will select for Year 2 of the cost collection program.

From the summary of the waiver, it appears that organizations will have the choice of submitting data in Year 1 or Year 2.  CMS has not moved the timeline for any other data collection year, so there is the potential for a substantial number of organizations to report in Year 2, which would increase the amount of data available.

The AAA has supported the data collection system to make sure that CMS and the Congress have valid and reliable data to support maintaining the geographic add-ons to the Medicare Ambulance Fee Schedule and to support efforts to address the chronic underfunding of the Medicare Ambulance Fee Schedule.

The complete FAQ is below and also available at: https://www.cms.gov/files/document/summary-covid-19-emergency-declaration-waivers.pdf (on page 29).

“CMS is modifying the data collection period and data reporting period, as defined at 42 CFR § 414.626(a), for ground ambulance organizations (as defined at 42 CFR § 414.605) that were selected by CMS under 42 CFR § 414.626(c) to collect data beginning between January 1, 2020 and December 31, 2020 (year 1) for purposes of complying with the data reporting requirements described at 42 CFR § 414.626. Under this modification, these ground ambulance organizations can select a new continuous 12-month data collection period that begins between January 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021, collect data necessary to complete the Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection Instrument during their selected data collection period, and submit a completed Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection Instrument 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 and 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 42 CFR § 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 42 CFR § 414.626.”

COVID-19 Message from President Aarron Reinert

Aarron Reinert
President
American Ambulance Association

Dear Fellow AAA Members,

I write to you today during what we all recognize as an extraordinary time for EMS. As we collectively serve on the very front lines of the COVID-19 epidemic, we know that the most challenging times are still ahead. However, I am heartened by the collective resolve of the members of the American Ambulance Association to provide 24/7 on-demand mobile healthcare, no matter the circumstances.

As President of the Association, I am sharing below a brief summary of the AAA’s activities to support its members in the face of this devastating disease.

COVID-19 Content & Approach

  • Coronavirus Working Group—AAA Region III Director Tom Tornstrom, Executive Director of Gundersen Tri-State Ambulance, has been appointed to lead the AAA Coronavirus Working Group. The team includes AAA’s lobbyists, leadership, staff, and members from across the nation. We meet frequently and collaborate constantly to track challenges and find solutions to EMS issues relating to COVID-19 response. Sample topics include:
    • First responder safety and wellness
    • Reimbursement for alternative destinations, treatment in place, and mobile testing
    • Paperwork reduction / waivers
    • Advocating for policies in federal legislation that support mobile healthcare and redacting those that can negatively impact the industry

Members will receive updates via our Digest e-newsletter as we continue to make progress on these and other issues.

  • Representation in Stakeholder Groups—From CMS to Congress to local mayors, AAA has representatives and members working with legislators, regulators, and officials at every level of government to advocate for EMS. Simultaneously, AAA leaders are working to showcase mobile healthcare’s unique strengths and capabilities for addressing the viral threat.
  • Member Newsletter—The frequency of our member Digest e-newsletter has been increased from weekly to near-daily to ensure that we are curating and communicating the most relevant and important information.
  • COVID-19 Archive—All AAA posts related to the virus can be found on our website. A COVID-19 resource link has been added to the top navigation of the AAA website for easy access by providers.

Association Events & Operations

  • Stars of Life—Out of an abundance of caution, the Stars of Life event in Washington has been canceled. All blocked rooms will be canceled and refunded by the hotel, and all attendee registration fees will be refunded by diflucan. Staff is working on the development of meaningful ways to celebrate 2020 Stars outside of the context of an in-person event.
  • Ambulance Cost Education (Cost Collection)—A plan is in place to move ACE Gold cost collection education from face-to-face to an interactive online learning environment. Subscribers can expect additional updates in early April.
  • Headquarters—Association staff is all working remotely whenever possible. Staff is adhering to strict health, hygiene, and social distancing. All order fulfillment, mail processing, and other functions have been moved offsite.

Please don’t hesitate to reach out to staff at info@ambulance.org or 202-802-9020 if we can be of any assistance. Thank you again for your service to your communities during this very difficult time.

Aarron Reinert
President, American Ambulance Association

Savvik Cost Collection Grant Application

The Savvik Foundation and the American Ambulance Association have launched a grant program available to Savvik member ambulance services that are preparing to comply with the Cost Data Collection program through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Through Savvik Member purchases under contracts, the Savvik Foundation was able to fund grant dollars through the American Ambulance Association (AAA). Through this grant, services will be eligible to receive a one-year AAA Ambulance Cost Education Gold subscription, which includes access to experts on cost collection, access to AMBER software, and free registration to Webinars and Regional Workshops. To apply, complete the application form below.

Savvik Cost Collection Grant Request

  • Was your organization (at least one NPI) selected by CMS for 2020 cost collection? Only organizations selected for 2020 reporting are eligible to apply for the grant.
  • How many total ambulance transports does your organization conduct annually?
  • How many total ambulance transports does your organization conduct annually IN RURAL and SUPER-RURAL areas?
  • How many registered ambulances does your organization have? Include registered ambulances held as reserve vehicles.
  • Is your organization a current American Ambulance Association member?
  • Is your organization a current Savvik member?
  • Max one paragraph
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Cost Data Collection: So You’ve Been Selected—Now What?

It’s finally here! For almost a decade the American Ambulance Association has been preparing for this moment: collecting cost data in order to justify the reimbursement inadequacies of our current payment system. As Benjamin Franklin stated, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” So prepare we did!

Our research indicated that due to industry capacity, a provider sample and survey approach would be preferable to a mandatory cost reporting structure. Congress agreed! Our research indicated that different organizational structures made us unique healthcare providers and as such, EMS’s special nature should be considered in the collection tool developed. Congress agreed! No one knows our industry better than we do and the final rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services indicates they listened!

So your ambulance service was selected for the 2020 reporting period—now what? Here is your 10 STEP PLAN.

STEP 1: Sign up for the latest information on ambulance cost data collection.

Subscribe to email updates from the American Ambulance Association’s Ambulance Cost Education page, www.ambulancereports.org. Not only will we make sure you get the latest information disclosed from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, but we will also provide you with quick tutorials on how to fill out the cost data collection instrument. Most importantly, you can purchase AMBER! This software provides an easy, quick solution for you to input your data, with built-in tutorials to walk you through the data collection process.

STEP 2: Know what is included in your National Provider Identification (NPI) number.

It is important that you review the information in the Provider Enrollment, Chain, and Ownership System (PECOS) which supports the Medicare Provider and Supplier enrollment process. You will want to make sure the information that you provide in the cost data collection tool, at a minimum, matches what is in this system or on your CMS 855B Medicare enrollment application. Pay close attention to the following:

  1. Practice location(s)
  2. Vehicle Information
  3. Ownership

STEP 3: “Tele” a Friend!

More than 2,600 ambulance suppliers and providers were selected for the 2020 reporting period (Zip file download of services selected for 2020). Please reach out to your colleagues. Now is not the time to let competition or friendly rivalries stop us from communicating best practices. Call your fellow mobile healthcare providers!

STEP 4: Know your accounting “status.”

How you recognize cost and revenue will be extremely important in determining how you report. Cash accounting recognizes revenue and expenses only  when money actually exchanges hands. Accrual accounting recognizes revenue and expenses when billed, not when money exchanges hands. This status will be key in determining how you report costs and revenues.

STEP 5: Know your mileage.

For every ambulance and non-ambulance vehicle that you use related to patient care, you will need to know the odometer readings at the beginning and end of 2020. Make sure you have a system to record the odometer readings accurately.

For example, you have a 2016 ambulance where the odometer reading on 1/1/2020 is 10,212. If on 12/31/2020 the odometer reading is 74,112, you will have the option of recording the full mileage of 63,900 in the data collection tool. This is another window into the “cost of readiness.”

STEP 6: Set up and Identify payer categories.

As identified by the Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection System (PDF download), there are nine payer type categories for billing ambulance transportation. Know these categories and set them up in your system now, prior to billing for ambulance transports in 2020. If you use a billing agency, seek confirmation that they have a way to identify these nine payer types. You may not have select reports to identify the numbers yet within these categories but that can be set up later in the reporting year.

Setting up your system NOW to identify these payer categories is critical as it will be too administratively burdensome to fix this retroactively.

STEP 7: Know if you share support services or stand alone.

Support services are services such as maintenance, dispatch, billing, materials management, human resources and other services that support patient care. You will need to know if you share these services with other entities such as fire, police, air ambulance, hospital or other entity not related to ground ambulance care.

If you share, then you will have to work out an allocation model to assign the costs and revenue appropriately. If you do not share support services, then you do not need to work about any of the questions related to allocation.

STEP 8: Identify sources of revenue and cost categories.

Check your systems. Now is the time to make sure you can identify all sources of revenue you receive whether from billing for an ambulance transport or from a grant or local tax. Understand your costs, especially those related to salary, vehicles, facilities and medical supplies. That is the first step in the ability to categorize appropriately.

STEP 9: Don’t panic!

Take a deep breath—It is not as complicated as it may seem. There are resources available and assistance for you and your ambulance services as outlined in STEP 1.

STEP 10: Repeat Step 1!

See, that wasn’t too bad, was it? Now you have a 10 Step Plan!

In all seriousness, while it may seem a bit daunting at first, breaking down the cost data collection process into small steps will ensure that our industry is prepared and the figures we enter into this cost data collection tool will glean useful information. It is imperative that we get this right the first time to avoid any unintended consequences, such as decreased reimbursements and other impactful changes that could harm the patients we serve.

As the saying goes, “the rising tide lifts all boats.” More than ever, we need to help and assist our colleagues as we navigate this new world of ambulance reimbursement.

So, what’s next? Cost data collection, my friend! Jump on board.

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.

AAA Webinar Wednesday, March 6: Tools for Billing Services and Other Vendors

Whether you contract with a third-party billing service, or have an internal billing department, the upcoming Ambulance Cost Data Collection (ACE) webinar hosted by the AAA on Wednesday, March 6 is a can’t miss.

As we get closer to new Cost Data Collection requirements taking effect across the ambulance service community, the American Ambulance Association has been developing Ambulance Cost Education tools and information to make it easier for services of all sizes and types to report. Billing services and vendors are a key component of the Cost Data Collection process, and if you have not already involved your contracted servicers or employees, this is a great time to start.

Tools for Billing Services and Other Vendors, presented by Ambulance Cost Education faculty member Aaron Director, will discuss the web-based reporting tool being developed, and share some ideas for vendors to create an integrated, seamless tool through partnership with the AAA. This is the ideal webinar for vendors that serve the ambulance community, and we encourage you to reach out and share this information broadly.  Invite them to participate and get involved!

We know things go better when we work together, and that is why the AAA is working so hard to make sure the Cost Data Collection process is inclusive. These webinars are available as part of a subscription package or On Demand. To learn more about Ambulance Cost Data Collection and all the American Ambulance Association is doing to help services across the country prepare, visit www.ambulancereports.org.  You will find both free resources and paid subscriptions are available to fit your budget and help your service prepare for the future of EMS.