Tag: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

CMS | National Stakeholder Call with the Administrator

You are invited to join the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS), Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, and her leadership team, to hear key updates from her first 100 days in office. The Administrator’s vision is for CMS to serve the public as a trusted partner and steward, dedicated to advancing health equity, expanding coverage, and improving health outcomes. We invite you to join us for this first national stakeholder call to learn more about how you can partner with us as we implement our vision.

When:   September 17, 2021 from 12:30 PM ET – 1:00 PM ET

Speakers:  

  • CMS Administrator, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure
  • CMS Leadership team

Who should attend: National and local stakeholders and partners

To Join the Call Click Here: https://cms.zoomgov.com/j/1605025285?pwd=VW5vb0RUbG1RMFFPWllxbGtRYlF5QT09

Questions:  We want to hear from you. Questions can be submitted in advance of the webinar by emailing Partnership@cms.hhs.gov

TODAY | CMS Cost Data Collection System Q&A Session

CMS Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection Q&A Session

Tuesday, September 14 from 2-3 pm ET

CMS is hosting a Q&A session about the Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection System tomorrow at 2:00pm Eastern.

Do you have questions about the Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection System? Join this live Q&A session. You may also send questions in advance to AmbulanceDataCollection@cms.hhs.gov with “September 14 Q&A” in the subject line. We’ll update documents on our Ambulances Services Center webpage with answers to common questions from this session.

More Information:

Register for this session

 

Biden Issues Exec Orders Requiring COVID-19 Vaccinations

The Biden Administration Issues Several Executive Orders Requiring Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination

On September 9, 2021, the Biden Administration issued several Executive Orders which impact more than 100 million workers in an effort to end the COVID-19 pandemic.  The two Executive Orders, Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees and Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors were highlighted during a Presidential press conference.

During his announcement, President Biden said that there are more than 80 million Americans, who are not vaccinated.  As a result he stated that “it is essential that Federal employees take all available steps to protect themselves and avoid spreading COVID-19 to their co-workers and members of the public.”  Additionally, the President stated he issued these orders “to promote the health and safety of the Federal workforce and the efficiency of the civil service, it is necessary to require COVID-19 vaccination for all Federal employees, subject to such exceptions as required by law.”

The orders will require that all Federal employees and employees of Federal Contractors mandate vaccination.  The President stated that if businesses and individuals want to work with the federal government, they must be vaccinated.  Under the order, The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force (Task Force), will issue guidance to all covered agencies consistent with these Orders within seven (7) days.

The President also announced that the U.S. Department of Labor (U.S. DOL) will be issuing emergency rules that will require employers of 100 or more employees to require vaccination or mandatory weekly COVID-19 testing for all workers.  Additionally, the President announced that he is expanding requirements for employers to provide paid leave to employees so that they can obtain the COVID-19 vaccinations.  He provided no details on how much the paid leave requirement will be expanded.

Lastly, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it will be expanding the vaccination requirements for healthcare facilities that bill Medicare.  Currently, the Biden Administration requires that all long-term care staff working for facilities that bill Medicare must be vaccinated against COVID-19.  In the latest announcement, CMS stated that it will be expanding the mandatory vaccination requirements to other Medicare-certified facilities, including hospitals, dialysis facilities, ambulatory surgical settings, and home health agencies, and others, as a condition for participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs.  CMS is developing an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period that will be issued sometime in October.

The President’s expanded COVID-19 plan follows numerous states, such as Connecticut, Rhode Island, California, Massachusetts, and several others that have already enacted mandatory vaccination requirements for healthcare, county or municipal, and long-term care workers.  Many of states that have enacted mandatory vaccination requirements provided for no vaccination exceptions, or made provisions for medical exceptions to the vaccination requirements.

We will not know the specific vaccine mandate requirements under these new rules until the Task Force, the U.S. DOL, and CMS publishes these emergency rules.  It is important for employers to understand that they are still required to engage any employee seeking an accommodation from the mandatory vaccination requirements in the interactive process as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.  We recommend employers follow a consistent documented process and seek legal advice when handling any accommodation requests.

We will continue to monitor developments with these new requirements.  Be sure to contact the AAA if you have questions about these Executive Orders or need assistance in ensuring you are in compliance.

CMS Webinar | Cost Collection Q&A

From CMS

Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection SystemQuestion and Answer Session on September 14, 2021 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM ET.

To participate in the Q&A session, you must register for the session at: https://cms.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_tuyiGdvORRiTXbmPaTQ1zg.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Do you have questions about the Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection System? We are holding a live Q&A session on September 14, 2021 at 2:00 pm.  Please send questions in advance to AmbulanceDataCollection@cms.hhs.gov with “September 14 Q&A” in the subject line. We will answer your questions that you submitted in advance during the call or participants may also submit live questions in the “chat” box.  In addition, we will update documents on our Ambulances Services Center webpage with answers to common questions from this session.  For more information, including the lists of ground ambulance organizations selected to collect and report information starting in 2022, see the Ambulances Services Center webpage, the CY 2022 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Proposed Rule: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-07-23/pdf/2021-14973.pdf, and the CY 2020 Physician Fee Schedule final rule.

CMS Announces Timeline for National Expansion of Prior Authorization for Repetitive, Scheduled Non-Emergency Ambulance Transportation

On August 26, 2021, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced its proposed timeline for the national expansion of the Prior Authorization Model for Repetitive, Scheduled Non-Emergent Ambulance Transports (RSNAT).  The formal notice appeared in the Federal Register on August 27, 2021.

Background

In December 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented a prior authorization model for payment of repetitive, scheduled non-emergent ambulance transportation.  Under this Model, ambulance suppliers are required to seek and obtain prior authorization for the transportation of repetitive patients beyond the third round-trip in a 30-day period.  Absent prior authorization, the Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) are required to subject further claims to prepayment review.

The Model was initially implemented in three states: New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina.  These “Year 1” states were selected based on relatively high per-capita expenditures on RSNAT.  The Model was subsequently expanded in January 2016 to five additional states (Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia) and to District of Columbia.  These “Year 2” states were selected based on their inclusion in the same MAC Jurisdiction as one or more of the Year 1 states.

The purpose of the RSNAT Model was to test whether prior authorization would be effective in reducing Medicare expenditures on RSNAT, without adversely impacting beneficiary access to medically necessary services.  CMS engaged Mathematica, a public health care research firm, to study the impact of prior authorization on ambulance utilization in the demonstration states.  Mathematica issued several reports that concluded that the Model was effective in reducing Medicare expenditures without any measurable impact on the quality of care available to Medicare beneficiaries.

On November 23, 2020, CMS published a notice in the Federal Register indicating that it intended to expand the Prior Authorization Model to all remaining states and U.S. territories.  However, citing the current Public Health Emergency, CMS elected not to set a timeline for that national expansion.

The current notice announces that timeline for national expansion

Expansion Timeline

CMS has indicated that the RSNAT Model will be expanded into new states on the following timeline:

Expansion Date Affected States
December 1, 2021 Arkansas, Colorado, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas
Not earlier than

February 1, 2022

Alabama, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Nevada, Tennessee, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands
Not earlier than

April 1, 2022

Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands
Not earlier than

June 1, 2022

Connecticut, Indiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont
Not earlier than

August 1, 2022

Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming

 

An analysis of the proposed timeline suggests that CMS has elected to expand the RSNAT Model based on existing Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) Jurisdictions.  For example, each of the states slated to be included in the December 1, 2021 expansion fall within MAC Jurisdiction H.  This MAC Jurisdiction is administered by Novitas Solutions, Inc.  Novitas also administers MAC Jurisdiction L, which has been operating under the RSNAT Model since 2014.  Thus, CMS likely selected MAC Jurisdiction H for the first stage of the national expansion due to Novitas’ experience in administering the RSNAT Model.

The second stage of the national expansion will occur no earlier than February 1, 2022.  This stage will include all states and territories located in MAC Jurisdiction J and MAC Jurisdiction E.  MAC Jurisdiction J is administered by Palmetto GBA, LLC, which has been administering the RSNAT Model in MAC Jurisdiction M since 2014.  MAC Jurisdiction E is administered by Noridian Healthcare Solutions, LLC.  This will be Noridian’s first experience with the RSNAT Model.

The third stage of the national expansion will occur no earlier than April 1, 2022.  This stage will include all states and territories located in MAC Jurisdiction 5 (Wisconsin Physicians Service Government Health Administrators), MAC Jurisdiction 6 (National Government Services, Inc.), and MAC Jurisdiction N (First Coast Service Options, Inc.)

The fourth stage of the national expansion will occur no earlier than June 1, 2022.  This stage will include all states and territories located in MAC Jurisdiction 8 (Wisconsin Physicians Service Government Health Administrators) and MAC Jurisdiction K (National Government Services, Inc.).

The final stage of the will occur no earlier than August 1, 2022.  This stage will include all states and territories located in MAC Jurisdiction 15 (CGS Administrators, LLC) and MAC Jurisdiction F (Noridian Healthcare Solutions, LLC).

Outreach and Education

With the formal announcement of CMS’ timeline for the national expansion of the RSNAT Model, the American Ambulance Association will be increasing its educational efforts related to prior authorization.  This will include webinars and other educational materials on the technical elements of the prior authorization process, the importance of third-party documentation, as well as basic best practices related to the transportation of repetitive patients.  We encourage all members that may be impacted by the expansion of prior authorization to take advantage of these educational materials.

CMS Releases Medicare COVID-19 Vaccine Data Analysis and PUF

From CMS on August 25, 2021

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released two new resources with information on Medicare beneficiaries on whose behalf at least one fee-for-service (FFS) claim for the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine has been submitted to the Medicare program.

First, we released a paper titled Assessing the Completeness of Medicare Claims Data for Measuring COVID-19 Vaccine Administration. This paper presents preliminary findings on the count of individuals ages 65 and older with at least one COVID-19 vaccine administration claim in the Medicare data compared to the count of people 65+ with at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose in the data reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Using data as of June 4th, 2021, we estimate that CMS received a claim for COVID-19 vaccine administration for roughly half of Medicare beneficiaries who have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose as compared to the estimated counts based on adjusted CDC figures (17.5 million out of 36.6 million). As a result, we recommend that the public apply significant caution when analyzing COVID-19 vaccine administration trends using Medicare claims data.

Second, we released the Medicare COVID-19 Vaccine Public Use File (PUF) which presents a high-level and preliminary overview of Medicare utilization and spending information from Medicare FFS claims for the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine. The PUF shows that between December 11, 2020 and June 30, 2021, Medicare payments for administration of the COVID-19 vaccine were over $1.1 billion.  The PUF is based on Medicare FFS claims CMS received by August 6, 2021.

[Note: The Medicare FFS program is paying for COVID-19 vaccine administration on behalf of MA beneficiaries as well as for FFS beneficiaries receiving COVID-19 vaccinations in 2020 and 2021.]

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CMS Webinar | Cost Collection Instrument Walk-Through

From CMS

Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection System Webinar: Instrument Walkthrough

Thursday, August 26, 2021 from 2:00 PM-3:30 PM ET.

To register for this webinar: https://cms.zoomgov.com/webinar/register/WN_S0aGs_TWTpWRBWF5hDAf3Q.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

The slide presentation is available here. (PDF)

During this call, CMS will walk through the Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection Instrument section-by-section, focusing on select instructions, data collection guidelines, and common questions and answers. The webinar will also highlight proposed changes to the instrument in the CY 2022 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) Proposed Rule: https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-2021-07-23/pdf/2021-14973.pdf.

A question-and-answer session will follow this presentation. You may send questions in advance to AmbulanceDataCollection@cms.hhs.gov with “August 26 Instrument Webinar” in the subject line. We will answer your questions that you submitted in advance during the call or participants may also submit live questions in the “chat” box.

For more information, including ground ambulance organizations that must report, see the Ambulances Services Center webpage, CY 2020 Physician Fee Schedule final rule, and Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

EMS Provider Comments Needed on the “Surprise Billing” Interim Final Rule

The Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Labor, and the U.S. Treasury Department (Departments) have issued an Interim Final Rule (IFR) on “surprise billing” that will take effect September 13, 2021.  However, the Departments are taking comments on the IFR.  While the Congress expressly excluded ground ambulance organizations from the statute that the IFR seeks to implement, the Departments have included a prohibition on balance billing for nonemergency ground ambulance transports that occur after a patient has been stabilized in a facility.

The Congress established an Advisory Committee to consider the best way to address balance billing in the context of ground ambulance services, and the Departments should wait to be advised by that group before subjecting nonemergency ground ambulance transports to the broader balancing billing prohibition.

It is important that the Departments hear from as many stakeholders as possible opposing this expansion of the law.  To help you develop a comment letter, we provided the following template that we ask you to tailor to your experience and organization.  Tailored letters will be of greater value to the Department as they consider the rules.  At a minimum, please customize the templated language to insert information about who you are and where you operate.

The must be submitted by September 7, 2021.

Submit Comments Quickly and Easily

CMS Open Door Forum | Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection System

August 12, 2021 Ambulance Open Door Forum

August 12, 2021 | 14:00–15:30 ET

Slide presentation on the Overview of the Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection System (PDF) is now available.

The next CMS Ambulance Open Door Forum scheduled for:
Date: Thursday, August 12, 2021
Start Time: 2:00pm-3:30pm PM Eastern Time (ET);
Please dial-in at least 15 minutes before call start time.
Conference Leaders: Jill Darling, Maria Durham

Agenda

**This Agenda is Subject to Change**

I. Opening Remarks
Chair- Maria Durham, Director, Division of Data Analysis and Market-based Pricing
Moderator – Jill Darling (Office of Communications)

II. Announcements & Updates

  • Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport (ET3) Model Update
    • ET3 Model Website: https://innovation.cms.gov/innovation-models/et3
      • ET3Model@cms.hhs.gov for inquiries
      • ET3 Model Listserv for Model updates: https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USCMS/subscriber/new?topic_id=USCMS_12521

 

Overview of the Medicare Ground Ambulance Data Collection
System
 A copy of the presentation will be available on the
Ambulances Services Center website under
Spotlights: https://www.cms.gov/Center/ProviderType/Ambulances-Services-Center
III. Open Q&A

**DATE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE**
Next Ambulance Open Door Forum: TBA
ODF email: AMBULANCEODF@cms.hhs.gov
———————————————————————
This Open Door Forum is open to everyone, but if you are a member of the Press, you may listen in but please refrain from asking questions during the Q & A portion of the call. If you have inquiries, please contact CMS at Press@cms.hhs.gov. Thank you.

Open Door Participation Instructions

This call will be Conference Call Only.

To participate by phone:
August 12, 2021 | 14:00–15:30 ET | Dial: 1-888-455-1397 & Reference Conference Passcode: 8604468
Persons participating by phone do not need to RSVP. TTY Communications Relay
Services are available for the Hearing Impaired. For TTY services dial 7-1-1 or 1-800-855-2880. A Relay Communications Assistant will help.

Instant Replay

1-866-470-7051; Conference Passcode: No Passcode needed
Instant Replay is an audio recording of this call that can be accessed by dialing 1-
866-470-7051 and entering the Conference Passcode beginning 1 hours after the
call has ended. The recording is available until August 14, 2021, 11:59PM ET.

For ODF schedule updates and E-Mailing List registration, visit our website at
http://www.cms.gov/OpenDoorForums/.

Were you unable to attend the recent Ambulance ODF call? We encourage you to visit our CMS Podcasts and Transcript webpage where you can listen and view the most recent Ambulance ODF call. Please allow up to three weeks to get both the
audio and transcript posted to: https://www.cms.gov/Outreach-andEducation/Outreach/OpenDoorForums/PodcastAndTranscripts.html.

 

EMS Balance Billing Quick Take—July 7, 2021

Webinar July 7, 2021 | 13:00–13:30 ET | Free to AAA Members
Speakers: Kathy Lester, Esq. & Asbel Montes

On July 1, CMS issued a proposed rule on Surprise Billing which applies to those providers and physicians identified in the No Surprises Act. This statute subjected ground ambulance suppliers to an HHS Advisory Committee process prior to any rulemaking addressing these services.

The consultants and staff of the American Ambulance Association are doing a deep dive into the 400+ page rule and evaluating its nuances. We continue to understand from our conversations that ground ambulances are not included and instead are subjected to the Advisory Committee.

The American Ambulance Association will soon provide a summary to members, and will address any confusion with the Administration. Join AAA for a quick take live webinar on July 7 at 13:00 ET to learn more!

Register Now

 

CMS | New Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment Snapshot

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 21, 2021

Contact: CMS Media Relations
CMS Media Inquiries

New Medicaid and CHIP Enrollment Snapshot Shows Almost 10 million Americans Enrolled in Coverage During the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

Report Shows Record Medicaid Enrollment and Highlights the Program’s Importance in Preserving Coverage for Millions of Children and Adults Throughout the United States

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released a new Enrollment Trends Snapshot report today showing a record high, over 80 million individuals have health coverage through Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  Nearly 9.9 million individuals, a 13.9% increase, enrolled in coverage between February 2020, the month before the public health emergency (PHE) was declared, and January 2021.

Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, a total of 80,543,351 people were enrolled and receiving full benefits from the Medicaid and CHIP programs by the end of January 2021. In the 50 states that reported total Medicaid child and CHIP enrollment data for January 2021, over 38.3 million children were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP combined, approximately 50% of the total Medicaid and CHIP enrollment. These numbers highlight the essential role the Medicaid and CHIP programs play in providing quality and needed coverage for millions of vulnerable children and adults. In fact, both programs serve as the largest single source of health coverage in the country.

“The Biden-Harris administration is using every lever to ensure any American needing access to quality health coverage receives it. Now more than ever, people need the peace of mind of knowing that they have health coverage,” said HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. “This report reminds us what a critical program and rock Medicaid continues to be in giving tens of millions of children and adults access to care. This pandemic taught us that now more than ever, we must work to strengthen Medicaid and make it available whenever and wherever it’s needed using the unprecedented investments Congress provided.”

The increase in total Medicaid and CHIP enrollment is largely attributed to the impact of the COVID-19 PHE, in particular, enactment of section 6008 of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). FFCRA provides states with a temporary 6.2% payment increase in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) funding.  States qualify for this enhanced funding by adhering to the Maintenance of Effort requirement, which ensures eligible people enrolled in Medicaid stay enrolled and covered during the PHE.

“Medicaid and CHIP serve as a much-needed lifeline for millions of people throughout this country. The increase we are seeing is exactly how Medicaid works: the program steps in to support people and their families when times are tough,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “For the parents that may have lost a job or had another life change during the pandemic, having access to coverage for themselves and their kids is life-changing. CMS is committed to ensuring our nation’s marginalized communities and low-income families have the coverage they need.”

To assist states and territories in their response to the COVID-19 PHE, CMS developed numerous strategies to support Medicaid and CHIP programs in times of crisis, including granting states more flexibility in their Medicaid and CHIP operations. Today’s data release also reflects a range of indicators related to key application, eligibility, and enrollment processes from within state Medicaid and CHIP agencies.

The Snapshot is a product of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid CHIP Services (CMCS) Medicaid and CHIP Coverage Learning Collaborative (MACLC), which monitors Medicaid and CHIP enrollment trends, primarily using the CMS Performance Indicator (PI) data reported to CMS by state Medicaid and CHIP agencies. PI data reflects key Medicaid and CHIP business processes- including applications, renewals, eligibility determinations, and enrollment.

The Enrollment Trends Snapshot, which is released monthly, is available here:  https://www.medicaid.gov/medicaid/program-information/medicaid-chip-enrollment-data/medicaid-and-chip-enrollment-trend-snapshot/index.html

The complete dataset, including data from January 2021, is available on data.Medicaid.gov.

Medicare Ambulance Relief Bill introduced in Senate

Yesterday, Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021 (S. 2037). Senators Cortez Masto and Collins were joined by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Bernie Sanders (D-VT) as primary cosponsors and leads on the legislation.

S. 2037 is identical to H.R. 2454 by Representatives Terri Sewell (D-AL), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT) and Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and would extend the temporary Medicare ground ambulance increases of 2% urban, 3% rural and the super rural bonus payment for five years. The increases are currently scheduled to expire on December 31, 2022. The five-year extension would allow for the increases to remain in place during the two-year delay on ambulance data collection due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, an analysis of the data by MedPAC and subsequent action by the Congress to reform the Medicare ambulance fee schedule.

The legislation would also help ensure that rural zip codes in large urban counties remain rural following geographical changes under the fee schedule as a result of the 2020 census data. The current definition using rural urban commuting areas (RUCA) in Goldsmith Modification areas would be modified for zip codes with 1,000 people or less per square mile would also be rural. Ground ambulance service providers and suppliers could also petition the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to make the argument that a specific zip code should be rural. It is vital that this provision be implemented before CMS makes changes from the 2020 census data which will likely occur in 2023.

The AAA has been leading the effort on the legislation with the support of the International Association of Fire Chiefs, International Association of Fire Fighters, National Association of EMTs, National Rural Health Association and the National Volunteer Fire Council.

The AAA will be launching a Call to Action shortly requesting AAA members to ask their Senators to cosponsor S. 2037, and reach out to their Representatives to cosponsor H.R. 2454 if they have not already done so.

We greatly appreciate the leadership of Senators Cortez Masto, Collins, Stabenow, Cassidy, Leahy, and Sanders on this vitally important legislation.

CMS Bolsters Payments for At-Home COVID-19 Vaccines

From CMS on June 9, 2021

Biden Administration Continues Efforts to Increase Vaccinations by Bolstering Payments for At-Home COVID-19 Vaccinations for Medicare Beneficiaries

As part of President Biden’s commitment to increasing access to vaccinations, CMS announced an additional payment amount for administering in-home COVID-19 vaccinations to Medicare beneficiaries who have difficulty leaving their homes or are otherwise hard-to-reach. This announcement further demonstrates continued efforts of the Biden-Harris Administration to meet people where they are and make it as easy as possible for all Americans to get vaccinated. There are approximately 1.6 million adults 65 or older who may have trouble accessing COVID-19 vaccinations because they have difficulty leaving home.

While many Medicare beneficiaries can receive a COVID-19 vaccine at a retail pharmacy, their physician’s office, or a mass vaccination site, some beneficiaries have great difficulty leaving their homes or face a taxing effort getting around their communities easily to access vaccination in these settings. To better serve this group, Medicare is incentivizing providers and will pay an additional $35 per dose for COVID-19 vaccine administration in a beneficiary’s home, increasing the total payment amount for at-home vaccination from approximately $40 to approximately $75 per vaccine dose. For a two-dose vaccine, this results in a total payment of approximately $150 for the administration of both doses, or approximately $70 more than the current rate.

“CMS is committed to meeting the unique needs of Medicare consumers and their communities – particularly those who are home bound or who have trouble getting to a vaccination site. That’s why we’re acting today to expand the availability of the COVID-19 vaccine to people with Medicare at home,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-Lasure. “We’re committed to taking action wherever barriers exist and bringing the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic to the door of older adults and other individuals covered by Medicare who still need protection.”

Delivering COVID-19 vaccination to access-challenged and hard-to-reach individuals poses some unique challenges, such as ensuring appropriate vaccine storage temperatures, handling, and administration. The CDC has outlined guidance to assist vaccinators in overcoming these challenges. This announcement now helps to address the financial burden associated with accommodating these complications.

The additional payment amount also accounts for the clinical time needed to monitor a beneficiary after the vaccine is administered, as well as the upfront costs associated with administering the vaccine safely and appropriately in a beneficiary’s home. The payment rate for administering each dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as well as the additional in-home payment amount, will be geographically adjusted based on where the service is furnished.

How to Find a COVID-19 Vaccine:

As this action demonstrates, a person’s ability to leave their home should not be an obstacle to getting the COVID-19 vaccine. As states and the federal government continue to break down barriers – like where vaccines can be administered – resources for connecting communities to vaccination options remain key. Unvaccinated individuals and those looking to assist friends and family can:

  • Visit vaccines.gov (English) or vacunas.gov (Spanish) to search for vaccines nearby
  • Text GETVAX (438829) for English or VACUNA (822862) for Spanish for near-instant access to details on three vaccine sites in the local area
  • Call the National COVID-19 Vaccination Assistance Hotline at 1-800-232-0233 (TTY: 1-888-720-7489) for assistance in English and Spanish

Coverage of COVID-19 Vaccines:

The federal government is providing the COVID-19 vaccine free of charge or with no cost-sharing for all people living in the United States. As a condition of receiving free COVID-19 vaccines from the federal government, vaccine providers cannot charge patients any amount for administering the vaccine.

Because no patient can be billed for COVID-19 vaccinations, CMS and its partners have provided a variety of information online for providers vaccinating all Americans regardless of their insurance status:

  • Original Medicare and Medicare Advantage: Beneficiaries with Medicare pay nothing for COVID-19 vaccines or their administration, and there is no applicable copayment, coinsurance or deductible.
  • Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP):State Medicaid and CHIP agencies must cover COVID-19 vaccine administration with no cost sharing for nearly all beneficiaries during the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) and for over a year after it ends. For the very limited number of Medicaid beneficiaries who are not eligible for this coverage (and do not receive it through other coverage they might have), providers may submit claims for reimbursement for administering the COVID-19 vaccine to underinsured individuals through the COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund, administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), as discussed below. Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARP), signed by President Biden on March 11, 2021, the federal matching percentage for state Medicaid and CHIP expenditures on COVID-19 vaccine administration is currently 100% (as of April 1, 2021), and will remain 100% for more than a year after the COVID-19 PHE ends. The ARP also expands coverage of COVID-19 vaccine administration under Medicaid and CHIP to additional eligibility groups. CMS recently updated the Medicaid vaccine toolkit to reflect the enactment of the ARP at https://www.medicaid.gov/state-resource-center/downloads/covid-19-vaccine-toolkit.pdf.
  • Private Plans: The vaccine is free for people enrolled in private health plans and issuers COVID-19 vaccine and its administration is covered without cost sharing for most enrollees, and such coverage must be provided both in-network and out-of-network during the PHE. Current regulations provide that out-of-network rates must be reasonable as compared to prevailing market rates, and the rules reference using the Medicare payment rates as a potential guideline for insurance companies. In light of CMS’s increased Medicare payment rates, CMS will expect health insurance issuers and group health plans to continue to ensure their rates are reasonable when compared to prevailing market rates. Under the conditions of participation in the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program, providers cannot charge plan enrollees any administration fee or cost sharing, regardless of whether the COVID-19 vaccine is administered in-network or out-of-network.

The Biden-Harris Administration is providing free access to COVID-19 vaccines for every adult living in the United States. For individuals who are underinsured, providers may submit claims for reimbursement for administering the COVID-19 vaccine through the COVID-19 Coverage Assistance Fund administered by HRSA after the claim to the individual’s health plan for payment has been denied or only partially paid. Information is available at https://www.hrsa.gov/covid19-coverage-assistance.

For individuals who are uninsured, providers may submit claims for reimbursement for administering the COVID-19 vaccine to individuals without insurance through the Provider Relief Fund, administered by HRSA. Information on the COVID-19 Claims Reimbursement to Health Care Providers and Facilities for Testing, Treatment, and Vaccine Administration for the Uninsured Program is available at https://www.hrsa.gov/CovidUninsuredClaim.

More information on Medicare payment for COVID-19 vaccine administration – including a list of billing codes, payment allowances and effective dates – is available at https://www.cms.gov/medicare/covid-19/medicare-covid-19-vaccine-shot-payment.

More information regarding the CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Program Provider Requirements and how the COVID-19 vaccine is provided through that program at no cost to recipients is available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/vaccination-provider-support.html.

CMS | Medicare COVID-19 Data Snapshot

Today, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released our monthly update of data that provides a snapshot of the impact of COVID-19 on the Medicare population. The updated data show over 4.1 million COVID-19 cases among the Medicare population and over 1.1 million COVID-19 hospitalizations.

The updated snapshot covers the period from January 1, 2020 to March 20, 2021. It is based on Medicare Fee-for-Service claims and Medicare Advantage encounter data CMS received by April 16, 2021.

View the Updated Snapshot

HR2454 | Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021

From Representative Terri Sewell

Rep. Sewell Introduces Legislation to Protect Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services for Rural and Underserved Communities

Washington, D.C. – This Congress, U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell (AL-07), along with Reps. Devin Nunes (CA-22), Peter Welch (VT-AL), and Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), introduced H.R. 2454, the Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021. The bill would ensure that ambulance service providers, including rural providers and those in underserved communities, are able to continue delivering quality critical first responder and health care services.

“When tragedy strikes and medical emergencies happen, we should feel confident that our first responders have the resources they need to deliver life-saving care,” said Rep. Sewell. “Unfortunately, inadequate Medicare reimbursement rates are putting a strain on ambulance service providers in the most vulnerable communities across the country and making it harder for them to care for our neighbors.”

“The problem is particularly severe for rural communities and has been worsened by the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic,” continued Sewell. “That is why I am proud to introduce the Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021. This bill would permanently adjust Medicare reimbursement practices so that vital ambulance services remain vibrant and available to all Americans.”

“This bipartisan bill includes key reforms to ensure that rural Americans are not harmed by the delay in updating the Medicare ground ambulance fee schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Rep. Nunes, Lead Republican Co-Sponsor. “Extending these temporary Medicare ground ambulance add-on payments for another five years and expanding coverage for those who live in zip codes with fewer than 1,000 people per square mile will keep ambulance costs affordable for Americans when they need ground ambulance transportation.”

“Rural ambulance services save lives and provide needed care in underserved areas every day,” said Rep. Peter Welch, Lead Democratic Co-Sponsor. “This bipartisan bill will ensure that patients in rural areas have access to critical ambulance services and that the providers of these services receive fair, consistent reimbursement for their important work. It’s time for Congress to pass this bill and give ambulance services the certainty they need to continue serving all Americans.”

“Ambulance services are critically important to rural Americans who may live close to an hour away from the nearest emergency room,” said Rep. Mullin, Lead Republican Co-Sponsor. “Providing this care literally means the difference between life and death for many people. As we continue to battle the closures of critical access hospitals across Oklahoma, ambulance services are more important now than ever before. We must ensure that rural Americans receive the care they need. I’m proud to join my colleagues in support of this bill which would enhance and increase resources for first responders in Oklahoma.”

Currently, ambulance service providers across the country are reimbursed by Medicare at rates below the cost of providing services, as determined by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Consequently, providers rely on “add-on” payments to continue providing services. Add-on payments vary depending on whether a provider is located in an urban, rural, or “super rural” ZIP Code.

Congress has extended current add-on payment rates through December 31, 2022, and planned to review Medicare cost data in considering whether they should be made permanent. However, due to the upcoming ZIP Code reclassification which will occur following the 2020 Census, providers are faced with uncertainty regarding the future of these payments. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to delay the first two rounds of data collection, compounding this uncertainty.

Background on the Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021

H.R. 2454, the Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021, would end the band-aid approach and make permanent adjustments to the reimbursement methodology for services in urban, rural, and “super rural” areas by building the temporary add-ons into the base rate fee. Specifically, it would extend the current temporary Medicare ground ambulance increases of 2% urban, 3% rural, and the super rural bonus payments for five years and would ensure that rural zip codes continue to be classified as rural following the ZIP Code reclassification.

These payments are vital to the financial viability of the ambulance community and have been extended numerous times on a bipartisan basis, most recently for 5 years. This five-year extension would allow a new data cost collection system time to be put into place and collect meaningful data following the delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“NRHA applauds Representative Terri Sewell for her leadership in working to preserve ground ambulance services in rural America. Throughout the pandemic ambulance services have provided critical first responder services in our most rural communities. Passing H.R. 2454, the Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021, is critical to ensuring that these important services remain in their communities long after the public health emergency,” said Alan Morgan, Chief Executive Officer of the National Rural Health Association.

“The Alabama Rural Health Association lends its full support behind the ‘Protecting Access to Ground Ambulance Medical Services Act of 2021’ (H.R. 2454).  As rural EMS transportation is one of the greatest challenges for quality access to care in rural Alabama, support is greatly needed to reinforce the existing emergency transportation system.  With additional funding and flexibility created in the system, states like Alabama will have the ability to provide improved emergency transportation in critically rural and underserved areas and allow patients to receive the care that they need in a timely manner.  We are thankful for Rep. Sewell’s introduction of this language, and we encourage support for H.R. 2454,” said Ryan Kelly, Administrator of the Alabama Rural Health Association. 

The legislation is also supported by the following organizations:

  • American Ambulance Association (AAA)
  • International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC)
  • International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF)
  • National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT)
  • National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC)

H.R. 2454 can be found here.

Thank you to Representatives Rep. Terri Sewell, Congressman Devin Nunes, Peter Welch, and Congressman Markwayne Mullin…

May 6, 2021
Press Release

 

CMS | Sequestration | Claims Hold Lifted

CMS Confirms Suspension of Medicare Sequester Through End of 2021; Announces Lifting of Claims Hold

On April 16, 2021, CMS published a notice on the MLNConnects webpage announcing the passage of the Act to Prevent Across-the-Board Direct Spending Cuts, and for Other Purposes. The law, enacted on April 14, 2021 extends the suspension of the Medicare “sequester” through December 31, 2021.

In anticipation of the legislation’s passage, CMS announced on March 30, 2021 that it had instructed its Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) to hold Medicare Fee-For-Service claims with dates of service on or after April 1, 2021. With the passage of the bill, CMS further indicated that it has instructed its MACs to release any claims currently being held, and to reprocess any claims paid with the sequester applied. CMS indicated that no action is required on the part of health care providers and suppliers.