To this day, ambulance services in the United States are still the only health care provider that delivers care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay. When you call 911, the medics show up and immediately begin providing health care. No one asks for an insurance card, or a credit card. They ask questions regarding the patient’s medical history… anything they need to know to provide better patient care.
Ambulance services provide more uncompensated care than any other health care professional in the United States. They must be ready to provide that service any moment, any hour of any day. There are no “office hours” or closed signs.
For many patients and their families, they are the best things to happen on the worst day of their lives. They take care of us.
But for whatever reason, some legislators, regulators, insurers look at our providers as transportation services, a commodity, and a supplier of services like durable medical equipment. They assume our costs are related to each trip and rarely consider that we always have to be ready to respond and only get paid when we transport. That is until someone they love needs us.
The AAA leadership is committed to changing all that. We refuse to let our industry be defined by stakeholders who may not understand the complexities of our world, of our medicine, our protocols and our services. We are looking to change the course of our future by mandating that we be viewed as providers and not suppliers or widgets. We fervently and wholeheartedly believe that we make an even greater difference to the health and well being of the communities we serve because of our distinct nature of our services: we are mobile, we are everywhere, we are underutilized because of a reimbursement structure that only allows for compensation when transporting. Therefore, the only way for ambulance services to not just survive but thrive in any future health care system is to attain provider status. It is the game changer. It puts us in the drivers seat regarding the type of service we should provide (treat and refer, alternative destinations, collaborative models of care). It makes our services more nimble, efficient, and better able to serve our communities.
Because CMS will mandate cost reporting for anyone getting reimbursement through their programs, we are fighting hard to insure that our data is collected accurately, allowing our industry of primarily small, rural providers who at times are the only ones within 100’s of square miles providing health care the least burdensome way of providing that data… and make no mistake, folks—we need data to prove what every ambulance service providers knows in the United States… we are significantly underpaid by Medicare and Medicaid. So I implore every ambulance service to join us in our fight for our future… to help us be identified by those who have influence on our regulations and reimbursement rates, that we have been and are providers of health care and as such need to be recognized and compensated for the lifesaving work we do.
We cannot do it without you.
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Maria Bianchi, CAE, is the executive vice president of the American Ambulance Association.