Tag: H.R. 3729

Medicare Extender Update

As president of your association, keeping you informed of our advocacy efforts is one of my top priorities. In keeping with this approach, I would like to share with you an update on the American Ambulance Association’s latest efforts on Capitol Hill. The temporary Medicare ambulance increases are currently scheduled to expire on December 31, 2017. And once again, Congress is waiting until the last minute to extend them. Thankfully, a long-term solution is on the horizon.

The House and Senate are in the process of negotiating the details of a Medicare provider extender package including our ambulance provisions. The House and Senate positions both include a five-year extension of the 2% urban, 3% rural, and super rural increases. Where their positions differ reflects the respective preferences of the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees on how best to collect cost data from ambulance services suppliers and providers.

The Senate position is based on a Senate Finance Committee Discussion Draft from October 26 which includes the five-year extension of the increases as well as a data collection system based on the one from the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act (S. 967). The provision would direct CMS to collect data from a statistically significant number of ambulance service suppliers and providers. This would occur each year for the first three years, then a minimum of every three years thereafter. The penalty for not reporting data if selected would be a 10% cut in Medicare reimbursement for the following year. The language gives CMS flexibility in designing the system, and would place minimal burden on small ambulance service suppliers. The outcome would be usable data to further substantiate the need for rate increases and reform of the Medicare ambulance fee schedule.

The House position is based on H.R. 3729, which also includes the five-year extension of the increases. However, it adds mandatory annual cost reporting for ambulance service suppliers and providers as well. The AAA worked with the bill sponsors and Committee staff to modify the cost reporting language to reflect the unique nature of our industry. However, since ambulance service suppliers and providers aren’t paid based on cost reports, and cost reporting requirements are very stringent, there are several compatibility issues when attempting to apply this model to our industry. The primary problem is the penalty for not reporting timely data, as well as a new standard requiring the data to be accurate and complete. As a result, after the first two years of reporting, the penalty of an overpayment for not reporting timely, accurate, and complete data could be an entire year of Medicare payments. The AAA therefore prefers the Senate language due to its flexibility for our industry as well as its less severe penalty.

The good news is that the House and Senate are in agreement on a five-year extension of the increases. As part of the increase package, our industry will also have a data collection system to demonstrate that we are reimbursed below cost, and to make data-driven decisions on reforming the Medicare ambulance fee schedule. However, it is critical that we get the data collection provision right so that it provides useful information and is not overly burdensome for our members.

Thanks to our champions on Capitol Hill, member advocates, and our lobbying team, the super rural bonus payment has been in effect since 2003, and the urban and rural increases since 2008. Subsequently, we have successfully advocated for Congress to extend the increases eight times, including the current 33-month extension. However, with Congress pressed to address a number of priorities by the end of this year, a Medicare extenders package may not occur until early January.

Securing a five-year extension will require the action of our entire membership. I urge you to please write your members of Congress today in support of the Medicare ambulance increases!

Contact your members of Congress now>

House Committee Passes Medicare Ambulance Relief Bill

House Committee Passes Medicare Ambulance Relief Bill

On Wednesday, the House Ways and Means Committee voted out favorably an amendment in the nature of a substitute to the Comprehensive Operations, Sustainability, ant Transport Act of 2017 (HR 3729) by Congressman Nunes (R-CA) and Sewell (D-AL). H.R. 3729 would extend for five years the Medicare ambulance add-on payments of 2% urban, 3% rural and the super rural bonus. The legislation would also implement cost reporting for ambulance service suppliers.

H.R. 3729 is a revised version of the Ambulance Medicare Budget and Operations Act  (HR 3236)introduced by Congressmen Nunes (R-CA), Upton (R-MI) and Welch (D-VT). While the AAA supports H.R. 3236, there were several changes made in H.R. 3729  that are concerning to the AAA. In particular, the addition of an offset which would implement an additional 13%* cut to BLS nonemergency transports to and from dialysis centers and a change in the penalty for not filing a time, complete and accurate cost report.  The AAA has therefore taken a neutral position on H.R. 3729 as we work with the House Ways and Means Committee and Congressmen Nunes and Sewell on modifications to the bill.

This week, AAA Board Members and Volunteer Leaders were in DC and met with both sponsors of the bill and other key offices to express our concerns over these new provisions. The AAA was able to secure the commitment of House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Congressmen Nunes and Sewell to work with us on those two key provisions.

The inclusion of an offset in the bill was necessary for its consideration by the Committee and the AAA is pushing for the language from S. 967 on prior authorization or similar approach just targeting dialysis transport fraud and abuse to replace the current cut. The AAA is also pushing for the Senate to consider S. 967which would make the add-ons permanent and require a random sampling of ambulance services to collect data instead of mandatory annual cost reporting by all ambulance services suppliers.

The AAA encourages its members to write their Senators to cosponsor S. 967.

* This figure was previously 22%.  The AAA worked with the House Ways and Means Committee and Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on the cost estimate for a five-year extension of the add-ons. As a result, CBO lowered its estimate to $1 billion over ten years instead of approximately $1.8 billion. The cut to dialysis as the offset was therefore lowered from 22% to 13%.

Ask your Senators to Support S.967 – 2017 Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act

The current 33-month extension of the Medicare add-on payments is set to expire at the end of December 2017. Losing these add-on payments would be a devastating blow to ambulance services across the country. It is crucial that the payments be made permanent as we push for a long-term solution. More details about the Bill can be found below. Let your Senators know that you support S. 967 — Here are three quick and easy ways to get involved!

Writing to your members of Congress only takes 2 clicks, follow these simple steps:

1. Enter contact information below (required by Congressional offices) and click “Submit”
2. On the next page you’ll see the letter(s) to your Senators – click “Submit Messages”