Tag: cost data collection

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.

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 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?

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

August 28 | 3:00 PM ET
1-800-250-2600
Pin: 82802314#
Speakers: AAA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs, Tristan North; AAA Healthcare Lobbyist, Kathy Lester, Esq.; AAA Medicare Regulatory Committee Chair, Krista Cuthbert; and AAA Payment Reform Committee Chair, Asbel Montes.

CMS Releases Proposed Cost Collection Rule

Today, CMS has released the proposed rule that would establish the ambulance fee schedule cost collection system as required by statute. The AAA is currently reviewing the rule and will provide a more detailed summary in the coming days.

On Tueusday, July 30 at 12:00pm Eastern, the AAA will be hosting a free webinar during which AAA counsel will provide an overview of the proposals in the rule. Do not miss out on this chance for the most up to date information.

Read the Proposed Rule

Sign Up for the Webinar

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

Ruth Hazdovac – AAA Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs
rhazdovac@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9027

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

Thank you for your continued membership and support.

RFP: Cost Collection SME/Project Director

Request for Proposals: Subject Matter Expert (SME)/ Project Director

Ambulance Cost Data Collection
Due April 20, 2019

Overview

The American Ambulance Association (AAA) invites proposals from qualified interested parties (individual and teams) for the purpose of directing the Ambulance Cost Data Project as a Subject Matter Expert (SME).

Introduction

As part of the extension of the Ambulance Medicare Add on payments, legislation passed on February 9, 2018, the Congress mandated that ambulance services provide cost data. General requirements of the legislation include the following:

  • Requires notice-and-comment rulemaking
  • May use a cost survey
  • Collect (1) cost; (2) revenue; (3) utilization; and (4) other information determined appropriate by the Secretary
  • Include information: (1) needed to evaluate the extent to which costs are related to payment rates; (2) on the utilization of capital equipment and ambulance capacity; and (3) on different types of ground ambulance services furnished in different geographic locations and low population density areas
  • May revise the system over time
  • Select a representative sample of providers and suppliers from whom to collect data
  • Determined based on the type of providers and suppliers and the geographic locations
  • May not be request same provider or supplier to submit data in two consecutive years
  • Those selected to report must do so in the form and manner and at the time specified by the Secretary
  • If selected and do not report, then may be subject to a 10 percent payment reduction, unless the hardship exemption
  • Opportunity to request a review of the application of the penalty
  • Information collected available through the CMS Website

AAA Cost Data Collection Objectives

The purpose of the AAA Cost Data Collection is to develop education and service lines to assist the industry in preparing to accurately respond to the federally mandated cost data collection system as designed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Objectives to include:

  1. Standardization of the education of the cost data collection system including standardization of terms.
  2. The development of a cost data app to be universally distributed and used by ambulance services to report costs.
  3. AAA’s cost data recommendations are considered the industry standard and tools are widely distributed and used by the majority stakeholders of the industry.
  4. Initial (beta) data used to analyze and validate cost collection system, and provide data needed to continue lobbying Congress on additional reimbursement payments.

Proposed Project Director (SME) Scope of Work

In order to achieve the above objectives, the following is the proposed director (SME) scope of work:

  • Review and comment on AAA Cost Data Collection deliverables, including publications, education efforts, and online tools, helping to maximize accessibility and utility while verifying accuracy.
  • In partnership with the Technology and Education contractor, provide industry and ambulance service support, both reactively in answering questions and proactively in presentations both remotely and in person.
  • In collaboration with the AAA Cost Data Collection Faculty, contribute and edit content for the data collection operational definitions.
  • Update website, write articles, member communications and information pieces for distribution and website posting.
  • Working with the Technology and Education contractor, monitor and support the receipt of initial data, reviewing to identify missing fields and outliers; follow-up and clean data as needed.
  • Using data generated by the data collection system, generate articles and reports reflecting analysis and synthesis.
  • As requested, prepare reports and provide counsel to the AAA Board throughout the term of the project.

Proposed Timeline of Work

  • May 1, 2019 Hire SME
  • May–June 2019 Review and finalization of operational definitions
  • Summer 2019 Review of Amber online toolset, support of pilot testing
  • September-December Ongoing education – including train the trainer materials and final pre-launch education
  • Throughout 2019-2020 Ongoing educational and awareness-raising work, development and enhancement of website content

Instructions for Submission of Responses

Please include the following information in your Response.

  • Cover letter indicating cost for providing services as outlines in the RFP.
  • Resume and/or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • A list of three references (including phone numbers), as well as a brief description of the project for the reference
  • Any samples you wish to use to showcase your work as a project director and/or SME

Submit the above materials to Maria Bianchi electronically to mbianchi@ambulance.org.

Deadline

We would appreciate a response to the proposal no later than April 20, 2019. If you have any questions, contact Maria Bianchi at 301-758-2927.

Summary of March 28, 2019 Ambulance ODF

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) held its latest Open Door Forum on Wednesday, March 28, 2019.  As with past Open Door Forums, CMS started the call with the following announcements:

  1. Ambulance Cost Data Collection – CMS reminded the industry that the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, enacted on February 9, 2018, requires CMS to create a new cost data collection system by December 31, 2019.
  2. Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport Model – A representative from the Innovation Center within CMS provided an overview of the “Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport Model” or “ET3.” This is a 5-year pilot program intended to provide ambulance providers with greater flexibility to handle low-acuity 911 calls, by providing Medicare payment for: (a) ambulance transportation to alternative treatment destinations and (b) treatment at the scene. The CMS representative indicated that CMS is in possession of data that suggests that 16% of emergency ambulance transports to a hospital emergency department could have been resolved by transporting the patient to an alternative treatment site, e.g., an urgent care center. CMS estimates that had all of these patients elected to receive care in the lower-acuity setting, it would have saved the Medicare Program approximately $560 million each year. With respect to the operation of the model itself, CMS essentially repeated the information that had been previously provided on its webinars. You can view the AAA Member Advisory on the ET3 Model by clicking here.
  3. Ambulance Inflation Factor – CMS reiterated that the 2019 Ambulance Inflation Factor is 2.3%.

Following the announcements, CMS moved into a Question & Answer period. The majority of the questions related to the ET3 pilot program. As is typical, many questions were not answered on the call; instead, CMS asked the individual to submit their question in writing. However, the following questions were answered on the call:

  1. Payment Rates under ET3 – CMS was asked whether the BLS base rate payment would be the BLS emergency base rate. It was not clear that the CMS representative fully understood the question, although she indicated that it would.
  2. Eligibility for Government Agencies – CMS was asked whether governmental agencies that operate 911 centers would submit applications to participate as part of the RFA process in the Summer of 2019. CMS responded that governmental agencies that operate 911 centers would not submit RFAs, but would rather wait for the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO), which will be issued after the ambulance providers and suppliers are selected for participation (expected to be the late Fall/Winter of 2019). CMS further confirmed that if the governmental agency also operated its own ambulance service that it would be eligible to apply for both aspects of the ET3 Model.
  3. Limit on Ambulance Providers – CMS was asked whether it would cap the number of ambulance providers and suppliers selected to participate in the program. CMS responded that, at the present time, it has no intent to cap the number of participating ambulance providers and suppliers at any specific number.
  4. Return Transports from Alternative Treatment Destinations – CMS was asked whether the model would provide for ambulance payment for the return transport after a patient was transported to an alternative treatment site. CMS indicated that the model does not provide for payment for the return transport.
  5. Definition of “Telehealth” – CMS confirmed that the model will use the same definition of “telehealth” used in other areas of the Medicare Program. CMS further confirmed that telehealth encounters require both audio and video connections.
  6. Approval of Alternative Treatment Sites – CMS confirmed that state and local regulatory agencies would have final approval over acceptable alternative treatment sites.
  7. Qualified Health Care Practitioner – CMS confirmed that a “qualified health care practitioner” would be an individually enrolled Medicare practitioner, which includes physicians and nurse practitioners. In some instances, it can also include physician’s assistants. CMS confirmed that the definition would not include registered nurses or advance scope paramedics.
  8. NOFO Funding – CMS indicated that, at the present time, it is not prepared to release additional details on the nature or size of the funding opportunities available to governmental agencies and their designees that operate or have authority over 911 centers.
  9. Medicare Advantage and Other Payers – CMS confirmed that the ET3 Model applies only to Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in FFS Medicare. It does not apply to Medicare Advantage enrollees, Medicaid recipients, etc.

Questions? Email Brian at bwerfel@aol.com

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.

 

 

Rural Health Day Advocacy Update

Happy National Rural Health Day! Thank you to all of the ambulance service providers who work hard providing life-saving treatment in rural areas every day.

In part of our ongoing advocacy efforts, the AAA sent a letter today to the Rural Caucuses in the United States Senate and House of Representatives. Addressed to leadership of the caucuses, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Rep. Adrian Smith (R-NE), and Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN), this in-depth letter highlights the critical work that our members do every day around the country and raises important issues affecting the industry. Issues covered in the letter include:

Stabilizing the Ambulance Fee Schedule
  • Make the add-ons permanent and build them into the base rate
  • Use new data from the ambulance cost collection program to ensure reimbursement is adequate going forward
  • New data should be used to assess the problems with the current ZIP-code methodology for determining rural and super-rural services
Ambulance Fee Schedule Reform
  • Proposed alternative models for rural ambulance services
  • Encouraging Congress to look at alternative destination options for ambulance service providers
Recognizing Ambulance Services as Providers of Health Care
  • Moving non-fire-based ambulance services from suppliers to providers under Medicare

The letter also highlights some of the burdensome regulations facing ambulance service providers that the AAA has recommended Congress address through its Red Tape initiative. These include:

Removing Unnecessary Regulatory Burdens:
  • Reduce the burdens created by the Physician Certificate Statement
  • Simplify the 855B Ambulance Enrollment Form
  • Address burdensome requirements of the patient signature on claims and the strict application of the revocation of billing authority

This letter from the AAA to Congressional leaders is just one part of the AAA’s ongoing effort to educate Congress on the crucial role ambulance service providers play in America’s healthcare system. The AAA wants Congress to know that in many rural areas of the country, ambulances are the medical safety net, yet face extreme challenges to staying in business thanks to below cost reimbursement and burdensome regulations. The AAA will continue to pursue this list of priorities with our members next year and going forward.

Read the Full Letter

Again, Happy Rural Health Day to our members – thanks for all that you do!

If you have any questions about our letter or rural advocacy, please contact us:

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

Ruth Hazdovac – AAA Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs
rhazdovac@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9027

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

Thank you for your continued membership and support.

Request for Proposals—SME/Project Director

American Ambulance Association
Request for Proposals
SME/ Project Director
Ambulance Cost Data Collection
November 2018

Overview

The American Ambulance Association (AAA) invites proposals from qualified interested parties (individual and teams) for the purpose of directing the Ambulance Cost Data Project as a Subject Matter Expert (SME).

Introduction

As part of the extension of the Ambulance Medicare Add on payments, legislation passed on February 9, 2018, the Congress mandated that ambulance services provide cost data.  General requirements of the legislation include the following:

  • Requires notice-and-comment rulemaking
  • May use a cost survey
  • Collect (1) cost; (2) revenue; (3) utilization; and (4) other information determined appropriate by the Secretary
  • Include information: (1) needed to evaluate the extent to which costs are related to payment rates; (2) on the utilization of capital equipment and ambulance capacity; and (3) on different types of ground ambulance services furnished in different geographic locations and low population density areas
  • May revise the system over time
  • Select a representative sample of providers and suppliers from whom to collect data
  • Determined based on the type of providers and suppliers and the geographic locations
  • May not be request same provider or supplier to submit data in two consecutive years
  • A selected to report must do so in the form and manner and at the time specified by the Secretary
  • If a selected and do not report, then may be subject to a 10 percent payment reduction, unless the hardship exemption
  • Opportunity to request a review of the application of the penalty
  • Information collected available through the CMS Website

AAA Cost Data Collection Objectives

The purpose of the AAA Cost Data Collection is to develop education and service lines to assist the industry in preparing to accurately respond to the federally mandated cost data collection system as designed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Objectives to include:

  1. Standardization of the education of the cost data collection system including standardization of terms.
  2. The development of a cost data app to be universally distributed and used by ambulance services to report costs.
  3. AAA’s cost data recommendations are considered the industry standard and tools are widely distributed and used by the majority stakeholders of the industry.
  4. Initial (beta) data used to analyze and validate cost collection system, and provide data needed to continue lobbying Congress on additional reimbursement payments.

Proposed Project Director (SME) Scope of Work

In order to achieve the above objectives, the following is the proposed director (SME) scope of work:

  • Review and comment on AAA Cost Data Collection deliverables, including publications, education efforts, and online tools, helping to maximize accessibility and utility while verifying accuracy.
  • In partnership with the Technology and Education contractor, provide industry and ambulance service support, both reactively in answering questions and proactively in presentations both remotely and in person.
  • In collaboration with the AAA Cost Data Collection Faculty, contribute and edit content for the data collection operational definitions.
  • Update website, write articles, member communications and information pieces for distribution and website posting.
  • Working with the Technology and Education contractor, monitor and support the receipt of initial data, reviewing to identify missing fields and outliers; follow-up and clean data as needed.
  • Using data generated by the data collection system, generate articles and reports reflecting analysis and synthesis.
  • As requested, prepare reports and provide counsel to the AAA Board throughout the term of the project.

Proposed Project Timeline

December, 2018 — Board Consideration of AAA Cost Data Collection Proposal and Budget Request

January 1, 2019 — Hire SME

January–February 2019 — Development of operational definitions

March–April 2019 — Review and finalization of operational definitions

Summer 2019 — Review of Amber online toolset, support of pilot testing

September-December — Ongoing education – including train the trainer materials and final pre-launch education

Throughout 2019 — Ongoing educational and awareness-raising work, development and enhancement of website content

Instructions for Submission of Responses

Please include the following information in your Response.

  • Cover letter indicating cost for providing services as outlines in the RFP.
  • Resume and/or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • A list of three references (including phone numbers), as well as a brief description of the project for the reference
  • Any samples you wish to use to showcase your work as a project director and/or SME

Submit the above materials to Maria Bianchi electronically at mbianchi@ambulance.org.

We would appreciate a response to the proposal no later than Friday, December 7, 2018.

If you have any questions, contact Maria Bianchi at 301-758-2927.

CMS Launches Outreach Effort to Ambulance Providers & Suppliers

As part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA 2018), the Congress instructed CMS to develop a cost collection system to collect cost and revenue data related to the provision of ambulance services. Ambulance services are defined by federal law to include all levels of emergency and non-emergency services. 

CMS is in the first phase of this process. The Congress instructed the Agency to engage with stakeholders before specifying through notice and comment rulemaking the data collection system. By law, CMS is required to specify the final system by December 31, 2019. CMS must also identify the first group of providers and suppliers selected for the first representative sample by that date as well. It appears that the goal is to have the contractor develop a proposal before the 2019 rulemaking cycle which will begin next summer.

To engage with the stakeholders, CMS, through its contractor the RAND Corporation, is reaching out providers and suppliers to learn more about the costs and revenues associated with providing ambulance services.

During the American Ambulance Association’s annual meeting earlier this month, CMS through the RAND Corporation, convened a focus group where they selected several AAA members who were able to talk directly with the contractor. The discussion centered around characteristics of ambulance services that matter for determining costs. The group also talked about how data is currently captured at the state and local levels, as well as how data is tracked within ambulance services. There was also a lot of discussion about the importance of standardizing data elements and not relying upon different state or local definitions, which could confound the data and make it impossible to compare costs across states.

As we have reported previously, it is critically important that the data collected through this process is standardized and reflects the actual cost of providing ambulance services. It is important to make sure that the data is useable not only for supporting the ambulance add-ons after they next expire in 2023, but also to help implement broader reforms and innovative payment models.

CMS is now reaching out to others in the industry. If you receive an email or a phone call from RAND Corporation, please respond. 

If you have questions about, or would like assistance with regard to, this project, please contact Tristan North at tnorth@ambulance.org.

Government Affairs Update

Government Affairs Update: What We’re Working On

The AAA continues to press policy initiatives with Congress and the Administration that are important to our members. While not as high-profile as our successful efforts earlier this year on the five-year extension of the Medicare ambulance add-ons, the AAA is working hard on ambulance legislation and regulations that impact the EMS industry and ambulance services across the country. Here is a snapshot of those current efforts. Over the next month, we will be providing weekly in-depth updates highlighting these issues.

Ambulance Cost Data Collection System

The AAA was successful in getting our preferred language of an ambulance cost data collection system using a survey and random sample methodology included with the extension of the add-ons in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. However, that was just the first key step in the process. We now need to ensure that CMS gets the details right as the agency develops the structural specifics and data elements for the system. It is critical that the system is designed in a way that ambulance service suppliers and providers will submit the most accurate data possible.

The data will ultimately provide the information necessary for Congress, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as well as the AAA and other stakeholders to reform the Medicare ambulance fee schedule. Reform will include potential reimbursement for services such as community paramedicine, treat and refer, and other items that don’t involve transporting the patient.  However, in order to determine the reimbursement levels, we first need the data on what it could cost for these additional services. The AAA therefore has been working closely with officials at CMS on the development of the data collection system.

Medicare Community Bill

The five-year extension of the add-ons and authorization of data cost collection system were the first steps needed in the long-term goal of reforming the Medicare ambulance fee schedule. The AAA is now developing the next piece of legislation as step two of the process. The “Community Bill” would make the Medicare ambulance add-ons permanent, treat ambulance service suppliers like providers in three specific instances, direct the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMI) to do additional pilot programs on innovative services being done by ambulance agencies, reduce regulatory burdens, and implement a more accurate definition of what Goldsmith Modification zip codes should remain as rural. The AAA is currently developing the draft bill and reaching out to congressional offices regarding the introduction of the bill which will likely occur early next Congress.

Restructuring of Dialysis Offset

The AAA is supporting the efforts of our members who would be significantly adversely affected by the upcoming reduction in dialysis transport reimbursement to restructure the cut. Congress included in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 an offset to go along with the extension of the add-ons that will cut reimbursement for BLS nonemergency transports to and from dialysis centers by an additional 13%. This will be on top of the existing 10% reduction.  The NEATSA Act (H.R.6269) by Congressman LaHood (R-IL) and Congresswoman Sewell (D-AL) would restructure the offset so that a majority of the additional reduction would be focused on those ambulance service agencies in which 50% or more of their volume are repetitive BLS nonemergency transports. The cut is currently scheduled to be implemented on October 1 and impacted AAA members and the AAA are working to get a Senate companion bill introduced shortly.

Rural EMS Grant Program

As an amendment to the Farm Bill (S. 3042) that passed the Senate, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) included language similar to the SIREN Act (S. 2830, H.R. 5429) to reauthorize the Rural EMS Grant program. However, in an effort to ensure the funding would go to the most needy, small, and rural EMS providers, the language of the amendment and SIREN Act would change the eligibility to just governmental and non-profit EMS agencies. Therefore, small rural for-profit ambulance service providers would no longer be eligible to apply for grants.

The AAA is pressing Senator Durbin as well as other members supportive of the reauthorization to revise the language to ensure small rural for-profit providers would still be able to apply for grants. In the next few weeks, the AAA will be asking AAA members to reach out to their members of Congress in support of the final Farm Bill including the reauthorization language and that it continues to also apply to for-profit providers as well.

Easing Regulatory Burdens

Over the last year, the AAA has responded to several requests for information from CMS as well as Congress on how to ease regulatory burdens for Medicare providers and suppliers. In addition to these broader opportunities, representatives of the AAA and our members have been meeting with CMS officials to reduce burdens for our industry. As a specific example, we are pushing for the elimination of the PCS for interfacility transports and to expand the categories of facility personnel eligible to sign the form.

Protecting Non-Emergency Ambulance Services

The AAA continues to educate members of Congress and congressional staff about the importance of non-emergency ambulance services. We are providing congressional offices with a clearer picture as to the vital role of these transports as part of the overall health care system. We are also looking to ensure that changes in federal payor policies strengthen the role and distinction of non-emergency ambulance transports from non-medical transportation services to health care facilities.

Zip Code Changes

The current use of Rural-Urban Commuting Areas (RUCA) as the basis of the Goldsmith Modification for determining rural areas in larger urban counties needs to be reformed. There are numerous examples of zip codes that are designated as urban under the Medicare ambulance fee schedule that are clearly rural. The AAA Rural Task Force is leading the way on both short-term and long-term efforts to more accurately capture rural zip codes in large urban counties. The AAA will include the ultimate reform provision crafted by the Task Force within the Community Bill as well as look at other legislative opportunities to make the changes.

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 | (703) 610-0216

Ruth Hazdovac – AAA Senior Manager of Federal Government Affairs
rhazdovac@ambulance.org | (703) 610-5821

Aidan Camas – Manager of State & Federal Government Affairs
acamas@ambulance.org | (703) 610-9039

Thank you for your continued membership and support.

NEW! AAA PreCon Workshop on Mandatory Cost Data Collection

AAA is excited to announce that this year we will be holding a full day pre-conference workshop at the AAA Annual Conference & Trade Show! Join industry experts Rebecca Williamson, Angie McLain, Asbel Montes, Kathy Lester, Scott Moore, and Brian Werfel to learn what the new cost data collection mandates will require and how you and your service can get ahead of the game and prepare for these changes.

Mandatory Cost Data Collection: When Is It Happening & How to Prepare

September 5, 2018 | 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM | MGM Grand, Las Vegas
$75 for Annual Conference attendees | $250 workshop-only

2018 federal legislation expanded Medicare cost reporting to ambulance services, although with some important differences from other Medicare reporters. Failure to meet these new reporting requirements could lead to significant sanctions including loss of Medicare revenue. In this session, we will review how we got to where we are, what the new mandates will require based on current regulations, and how best to prepare yourself and your service for the phase-in.

Ambulance Cost Data Collection is Coming

Although the most prominent ambulance provision passed in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (H.R. 1892) was the five-year extension of the Medicare add-ons, the Act also included important language directing the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to collect cost and other financial data from ambulance service suppliers and providers.

This week, an editorial from AAA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tristan North was featured in the June issue of JEMS‘s “EMS Insider”. Read the full article►

Summary of March 2018 Ambulance Open Door Forum

CMS held its latest Open Door Forum on Wednesday, March 7, 2018. As with past Open Door Forums, CMS started the call with the following series of announcements:

Medicare Fee Schedule – CMS indicated that the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, enacted on February 9, 2018, contained several provisions that impacted the payment of ambulance claims under the Medicare Ambulance Fee Schedule:

  • Temporary Add-Ons for Ground Ambulance – CMS indicated that Section 50203(a) of the bill extended the temporary add-ons for ground ambulance services for an additional five years, retroactive back to January 1, 2018.  As extended, these add-ons will expire on December 31, 2022.  These add-ons increase Medicare’s allowable for ground ambulance base rates and mileage by 2% in urban areas, 3% in rural areas, and by 22.6% (over the applicable rural rate) for services provided in so-called “super rural” areas.
  • Cost Reporting – CMS indicated that Section 50203(b) of the bill would require ground ambulance providers and suppliers to submit cost data to CMS. CMS noted that the new law requires CMS to develop, no later than December 31, 2019, a data collection system to collect cost, revenue, utilization, and certain other information related to ground ambulance services. The law provides that cost data will be collected using a survey methodology, with a representative sample of ambulance providers and suppliers being asked to submit cost data in any given year.  Finally, CMS noted that, starting on January 1, 2022, providers or suppliers that fail to submit the requested cost data would be subject to a 10% reduction in their Medicare payments, unless otherwise exempted on the basis of significant hardship.
  • Additional Reduction in Medicare Payment for Dialysis Transports – Section 53108 of the bill provides that the Medicare allowable for non-emergency, basic life support transports to and from dialysis will be subject to a further 13% reduction.  This reduction would go into effect for dialysis transports with dates of service on or after October 1, 2018. This would be on top of the existing 10% reduction in Medicare’s payment for dialysis transports, for a total reduction of 23%.

Temporary Enrollment Moratorium – CMS indicated that the temporary moratorium on the enrollment of new ground non-emergency ambulance providers in Texas was lifted on September 1, 2017. CMS further indicated that the enrollment moratorium was extended for the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania for an additional six months on January 29, 2018. CMS will need to make a determination on or before July 29, 2018 on whether to lift the moratorium or extent it for an additional six months in that state.

Following the announcements, CMS moved into a brief Question & Answer period.  Most of the questions were not answered on the call; instead, CMS took the contact information of the person asking the question, and indicated that they would respond directly to them at a later date.  However, the following questions were answered:

  1. CMS indicated that a Change Request had been sent to all Medicare Administrative Contractors (MACs) informing them of the new, adjusted fee schedule amounts. CMS further indicated that this Change Request, which it indicated was confidential, provided further instructions to the MACs on when and how to adjust claims initially paid at the original 2018 rates.
  1. CMS confirmed that the adjusted rates are retroactive to January 1, 2018. Accordingly, CMS indicated that claims paid at the original 2018 rates will be adjusted by the MACs at some future date.
  1. CMS indicated that it recently released its First Interim Evaluation Report on the Medicare Prior Authorization Model for repetitive, non-emergency ground ambulance transports. CMS further indicated that it was still reviewing this report, and that no decision has yet been made on the extension of this model within the existing 9 states and the District of Columbia and/or the expansion of the model to additional states.

Have questions? Please write to the Werfels at bwerfel@aol.com.

Collecting Data for the Future

Collecting Data for the Future:  Understanding the New Statutory Cost Collection Requirement

By Kathy Lester, JD, MPH, Lester Health Law PLLC

On February 9, the President signed into law the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 which thankfully included a five-year extension of the ambulance add-ons.  Along with the add-ons extension, the Congress included language requiring the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to develop and implement a new cost data collection system for ambulance service providers and suppliers.  While cost collection may sound difficult, the process outlined in the new authority strikes the appropriate balance and will minimize the burden on ambulance service providers and suppliers, while allowing the federal government to collect meaningful data that can be used to address the inadequate reimbursement rates and modernize Medicare ambulance payment policies.

Knowing some time ago that the industry would need to provide CMS with cost information, the AAA for the past six years has been working with The Moran Company, a well-respected health care analytical firm in DC, on the best way to collect ambulance cost data.  Most recently, the AAA Payment Reform Committee has been working with the cost collection experts at The Moran Company to identify the data elements that CMS would need to collect to establish accurate information about the cost of providing ground ambulance services.  We have also developed educational materials that we will share with Members to help ensure a smooth transition into this system.

General

The core components of the new cost collection system for providers and suppliers of ground ambulance services are:

  • A requirement that the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through notice-and-comment rulemaking, must develop a data collection system to collect:           (1) cost; (2) revenue; (3) utilization; and (4) other information determined appropriate by the Secretary;
  • This system may use a cost survey; and
  • The data collect should include information: (1) needed to evaluate the extent to which costs are related to payment rates; (2) on the utilization of capital equipment and ambulance capacity; and (3) on different types of ground ambulance services furnished in different geographic locations and low population density areas.

Representative Sample

Under the statute, the Secretary must select a representative sample of providers and suppliers from whom to collect data.  The sample will be determined based on the type of providers and suppliers (such as those that are part of a governmental organization, fire, hospital-based, etc) and the geographic locations (such as urban, rural, and low-population density areas).  An individual provider or supplier (defined most likely by National Provider Identifier) may not be requested to submit data in two consecutive years, to the extent practicable.

Reporting Requirements

A provider or supplier selected to report data must do so in the form and manner and at the time specified by the Secretary.  If a provider or supplier that has been selected to report does not do so, then the provider or supplier may be subject to a 10 percent payment reduction, unless the hardship exemption applies.  Providers or suppliers that are penalized may seek a review of the application of the penalty.  The Secretary does have the authority to take into consideration certain hardships as to why a provider or supplier was unable to submit their data and waive the penalty.

Modification Over Time

The Secretary may revise the system over time.

Public Availability of the Data

The Secretary will provide the information collected available through the CMS Website, similar to the process used for other data CMS collects.

MedPAC Report

In addition, the language includes a study/studies from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC).  MedPAC is required to issue at least one report, and potential subsequent reports, on the following:

  • An analysis of the information submitted by providers and suppliers through the data collection system;
  • An analysis of any burden on providers and suppliers associated with the data collection system;
  • A recommendation as to whether information should continue to be submitted through such data collection system or if it should be revised;
  • The adequacy of payments for ground ambulance services;
  • Geographic variations in the cost of furnishing ground ambulance services; and
  • Other information determined appropriate by the Commission.

Timeline

The Secretary must implement the data collection system according to the following timeline:

The AAA will continue to keep you informed as the development and implementation of the ambulance cost data collection system moves forward.

12/31/2019
  • Specify the data collection system
  • Identify providers and suppliers that would be required to submit information for the representative sample

2020 – 2024

 

  • Collect data each year from a representative sample of providers and suppliers
 2022  

  • First year a provider or supplier that has been asked to submit data and has not sufficiently submitted the data may be subject to a 10 percent payment reduction.
 2023  

  • MedPAC report due
 2025+  

  • Collect data as the Secretary determines appropriate but no less often than once every 3 years

The AAA will continue to work with The Moran Company and other experts to make sure data collection system works for all ambulance service providers and suppliers and leads to information that the industry needs to move toward making the add-ons permanent and modernizing the benefit to include new payment models, including transports to alternative destinations, treatment with referral and no transport, and mobile integrated health.

Overview of The Moran Company Recommendations on Ambulance Cost Collection System

Overview of The Moran Company Recommendations on Ambulance Cost Collection System

 From 2012 – 2014, The Moran Company developed, through a three-phase project, recommendations about how the Medicare program could collect costs associated with providing ambulance services. Consistent as well with the findings of the Congressionally mandated report on ambulance cost reporting/cost collection, The Moran Company determined that Medicare cost reporting would not be appropriate, result in the submission of accurate data, or solve the historic problem of under-reporting by the industry. Instead, The Moran Company recommended a “hybrid” model that relies on the data elements and accounting methods used in Medicare cost reporting and collects this information in a two-step process to ensure that the unique and varied business structures and their cost differences are appropriately captured.

Step 1:  Collect information to categorize ambulance services to allow for a statistically representative grouping and for appropriate comparison of cost data.

The first step would involve all ambulance operations completing a very short (8-10 question) survey for each of their NPIs. The information collected in this step could include:

  • Organizational designation (e.g., a government authority, independent company, public safety or fire-based, hospital-based, other) [this information ensures that an appropriate number of each type of organization is represented in the cost collection step]
  • Percentage of volunteer EMT labor [this information ensures that an appropriate number of all volunteer, partial volunteer, and no volunteer services are represented in the cost collection step]
  • Volume of ambulance services delivered per year [this information ensures that costs from small, medium, and large services are represented in the cost collect step]
  • Percentage of Medicare emergency and non-emergency services provided per year [this information ensures that the costs of both emergency and non-emergency services are appropriately captured in the cost collection step]
  • Average duration of transports [this information ensures that the costs associated with various lengths of transport are captured in the cost collection step]
  • Whether the service has a sole source contract and, if so, the percent of the activity provided under that contract [this information ensures that the cost differences associated with sole source contracts are captured in the cost collection step]
  • If required to pay fees to the local jurisdiction [this information ensures that the costs associated with local jurisdiction fees are captured in the cost collection step]
  • Other services that are a requirement of doing business [this information allows for the costs that may not be ambulance-related but mandated by local contracts to be accounted for in the cost collection step]
  • Percentage of transports that are urban, rural, or super rural [this information is important to ensure that the costs associated with each designation are appropriately represented in the cost collection step]

Step 2:  Collect cost and revenue information from a statistically appropriate group of ambulance suppliers and providers.

The second step would involve providing information about specific cost and revenue data elements.  These would be consistent with the existing Medicare cost reporting elements for other providers, but in certain instances tailored to ensure that all allowable costs of ambulance services are collected.  For example, vehicle maintenance and fuel would be part of ambulance cost data and included, even if these data elements are not included on nursing home costs reports.

CMS would determine a statistically appropriate sample size for each organization type and ensure an appropriate mix of rural, urban, super-rural, as well as volunteer, sole source, and emergency/non-emergency services.  Over time all ambulance providers and suppliers would be required to report the data, but no individual service (defined by the NPI number) would be required to report every year.

Public Reporting.  Once CMS has collected the data, it will make a de-identified file of the information available to allow policy-makers and stakeholders to evaluate the information collected.  The AAA’s goal is to use this information to allow for meaningful reform that for the first time would link the payment rates to the cost of providing services.  The AAA also seeks to modernize the use of ambulance services in the health care system through policies such as alternative destination, treatment at the scene with referral and no transport, and community paramedicine.

2013 Final Report by The Moran Company

Copyright © 2018 American Ambulance Association, All rights reserved.

CMS Releases Ambulance Cost Data Collection Report

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has released its report on the feasibility of collecting cost data from ambulance service providers.  Under the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, Congress directed CMS to conduct the report entitled “Evaluation of Hospitals’ Ambulance Data on Medicare Cost Reports and Feasibility of Obtaining Cost Data from All Ambulance Providers and Suppliers”. The report can be accessed here.

The report states that due to the diverse nature of our industry with a majority of providers being small entities, traditional mandatory ambulance cost reporting is not feasible.  While it does not make a recommendation on a data collection system, the report highlights the work of the AAA with The Moran Company and will be helpful in our push for a survey approach to collecting ambulance cost data.  Here is AAA’ summary of the report, AAA Summary of CMS Acumen Cost Analysis.

The survey approach to collecting ambulance cost data is a major component of the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act (S. 377, H.R. 745) which would make the current Medicare ambulance increases permanent.  The data collected through the survey would help the AAA make data-driven recommendations to the Congress and CMS on future changes to the Medicare ambulance fee schedule.

The contractor, Acumen, who developed the report, was also asked to look to see if cost data submitted by hospital-based ambulance service providers would be helpful.  Acumen determined that the data submitted varied significantly and thus was not useful.

For questions about the AAA efforts on cost data collection, please contact AAA Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Tristan North at tnorth@ambulance.org.

The Importance of Ambulance Cost Survey Data

By Kathy Lester, JD, MPH | Updated November 9, 2015

Tomorrow is in your hands today. This statement is especially true when we think about the evolution of ambulance services. Today, care once reserved for the hospital setting is now delivered at the scene, resulting in better patient outcomes. Yet, despite these advances, the Medicare payment system lags behind. Current rates are based upon a negotiated rulemaking process that did not take the cost of providing services into accounts. While many in the industry strive to further expand the delivery of high-quality care, the inflexibility of the current payment system makes it difficult to compensate the next generation of ambulance service providers appropriately.

To prepare for tomorrow, ambulances services must act today. The AAA has taken a leadership role by setting the groundwork needed to reform the payment system so that it recognizes the continued evolution of ambulance services. The two game changers are (1) designating ambulance suppliers as “providers” of care; and (2) implementing a federal data collection system.

“Emergency care has made important advances in recent decades: emergency 9-1-1 service now links virtually all ill and injured Americans to immediate medical response; organized trauma systems transport patients to advanced, lifesaving care within minutes; and advances in resuscitation and lifesaving procedures yield outcomes unheard of just two decades ago.”
Institute of Medicine: Emergency Medical Services at a Crossroads (2007)

Provider Status

Being deemed a “provider” rather than a “supplier” is the first step toward recognizing the clinical component of ambulance services and appropriately incorporating ambulance services into the broader health care coordination and reform discussions.

Under current law, the term provider refers to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), outpatient rehabilitation facilities, home health agencies, ambulatory surgical centers, end-stage renal disease facilities, organ procurement organizations, and clinical labs. Durable medical equipment entities and ambulance services are designated as suppliers.

When ambulance services were first added to the Medicare benefit, the primary services provided were transportation. As noted already, transportation is only one component of the services provided. The deliver of health care services today make ambulances more like other Medicare providers than suppliers.

Achieving this designation is the first step toward having the federal government recognizing the value of the health care services provided by ambulances.

Cost Collection

The second game changer involves collecting cost data from all types and sizes of ambulances services in all areas of the country. Current Medicare rates are not based on cost. As the Government Accountability Office has recognized in two separate reports, these rates do not cover the cost of providing services to beneficiaries. While the Congress has extended the ambulance add-ons year after year, the lack of a permanent fix makes it difficult to plan. There is also the risk of the add-ons not being extended at some point. In addition, the rates take into account only at the most general level the health care being provided.

In the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA), the Congress required the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to issue a report evaluating the ability to use current hospital cost reports to determine rates and also to assess the feasibility of obtaining cost data on a periodic basis from all types of ambulance services. Knowing of the strong Congressional interest in obtaining additional cost information, the AAA began working with The Moran Company (a consultant organization with expertise in Medicare cost reporting) to develop recommendations as to how cost data could be most efficiently and effectively collected. The AAA shared these recommendations with CMS and the contractor developing the report. The final report, released in October, supports the AAA’s work and states:

Any cost reporting tool must take into account the wide variety of characteristics of ambulance providers and suppliers. Efforts to obtain cost data from providers and suppliers must also standardize cost measures and ensure that smaller, rural, and super-rural providers and suppliers are represented.

The next step in the process is to provide CMS with direction and authority to implement the AAA’s cost survey methodology. In brief, the methodology would:

  • Require all ambulance services to report to CMS demographic information, such as organizational type (governmental agency, public safety, private, all volunteer, etc), average duration of transports, number of emergency and nonemergency transports. CMS would use this data to establish organization categories so that the data collected aligns with the type of organization providing it.
  • Require all ambulance services to report cost data, such as labor costs, administrative costs, local jurisdiction costs, through a survey process. During any survey period, CMS would identify a statistically valid sample of ambulance services in each category to be surveyed. These services would have to provide the data or be subject to a five percent penalty. Those ambulance services that provide data will not be asked to do so again until every service in its organization category has submitted the data.

As part of this process, the AAA has begun developing a common language for reporting these data. This work will ensure that the information is collected in a standardized manner. The AAA will also provide assistance to services that may need extra help in completing the surveys.

This information can then be aggregated and used to evaluate the adequacy of Medicare payments and support additional coverage policies. Most importantly, it will allow policy-makers, the AAA, and other stakeholders to reform the current Medicare ambulance payment system so that it incorporates the health care services currently being provided and those that will be in the future.

Conclusion

In order to be prepared for the reimbursement structures of tomorrow, ambulance services need to be designated a providers and recognized for the health care they provide. They also need to participate in a standardized cost collection program that will provide accurate data in the least burdensome way possible. The AAA is leading the effort to help ambulance services prepare for tomorrow.

  • 1
  • 2