Tag: Permanent Medicare Relief

Congress Passes Ambulance Medicare Add-Ons

 

It is my pleasure to share with you that—just minutes ago—Congress passed the 5 year extension of the Medicare ambulance add-ons. The extension was part of the two-year budget deal reached by congressional leaders and passed by the Senate early this morning and then shortly thereafter by the House. The ambulance provisions in the final deal differ from the provisions passed earlier this week by the House in one key area – the collection of ambulance cost data. This means that we are truly in the endzone of the add-on payment extension process.

While we ask your continued patience as we jump through one last procedural hoop, I am confident that the add-ons will be back in effect as soon as the President signs the legislation. In today’s deeply divided political climate, I am proud of what we have accomplished through collaboration as an association and industry.

Here are the specifics of the final package:

  • 5 year extension of the ambulance Medicare add-ons through December 31, 2022, retroactive to January 1, 2018.
  • AAA’s preferred method of Cost data collection that provides flexibility to the Secretary of HHS in developing the system. Consultation with the industry is required so that it strikes the appropriate balance between obtaining meaningful data while not overly burdening or onerously penalizing the ambulance services.
  • The penalty for failing to report required data would be a reduction in payment up to 10% for the year following the year in which the data should have been submitted. AAA objected to the house proposed penalty of up to a year of Medicare payments clawback or withholding of payments. A clause is included to wave the penalty in cases of hardship.
  • A “pay-for” for the 5-year extension of the add-ons with a 13% cut to non-emergent dialysis transports – the AAA had objected to the offset and pushed for a cut targeted to just those entities which abuse the dialysis transport benefit. We were successful in reducing the initial cut from 22% to 13%. The AAA is actively working on other pay-for options that would replace the 13% cut with something targeting dialysis fraud and abuse.

Next Steps

All that remains to bring the add-ons into effect retroactively to January 1, 2018 are a few administrative formalities and the signature of the President, who has indicated his support of the agreement. Given the government shutdown, we are cautiously optimistic that this will proceed quickly. However, bumps are always a possibility—we will keep you informed! (Follow AAA on Twitter at @amerambassoc or Facebook for instant updates.)

Thank You

This week’s tremendous progress would not have been possible without months of effort by AAA volunteer leaders, advocacy experts, and staff, as well as support from our key champions in Congress.

I’d like to personally thank the AAA Government Affairs Committee, including Chair Jamie Pafford-Gresham and Vice Chair Shawn Baird, as well as the entire AAA Board for their hundreds of hours of hard work on this issue. We are all truly grateful for your dedication to moving mountains to find sustainable funding for EMS.

Last but certainly not least, thank you to the dozens of state ambulance associations and thousands of individual members who wrote letters to their Members of Congress in support of the add-ons. We truly couldn’t have made it this far without your support.

Again, thank you, and please stay tuned for final updates!

Mark Postma
President
American Ambulance Association
“Representing EMS in America”

House Passes Ambulance Medicare Add-Ons

Moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation which includes a five-year extension of the Medicare ambulance add-ons. The House voted 245 to 182 to pass a Continuing Resolution (CR) to fund the federal government beyond the current expiration date of February 8. The CR included a package of Medicare provider extenders including an extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance add-ons.

The ambulance provisions in the CR include the following:

  • A five-year extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance increases of 2% urban and 3% rural to base and mileage rates and 22.6% to the base rate in super rural areas. The extension would be retroactive to January 1, 2018 and expire on December 31, 2022.
  • The requirement for ambulance service suppliers to submit cost reports. The language is based on H.R. 3729 as reported by the House Ways and Means Committee but with new language providing the CMS Administrator with the discretion to apply a payment suspension or overpayment as the penalty for suppliers that do not submit timely, accurate and complete data after the initial two years.
  • To offset the cost of the add-ons extension, a further reduction of 13% in Medicare reimbursement for BLS non-emergency transports to and from dialysis centers. The initial reduction was 22% but the AAA was able to help lower the estimated cost of the add-ons and thus lower the percentage of the offsetting cut.

The CR now goes to the Senate for its consideration. The Senate is likely to act tomorrow, February 7.

We will keep you posted of new developments. Thank you for your continued support of the American Ambulance Association.

Mark Postma
President
American Ambulance Association
“Representing EMS in America”

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”

House Introduces H.R. 3236 – Write to Your Reps!

Take Action for Extending Medicare Ambulance Relief

Ask your Representatives to Support H.R. 3236 – The Ambulance Medicare Budget and Operations Act of 2017

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 extended as we push for a long-term solution. H.R. 3236 introduced by Reps. Nunes, Upton, and Welch would extend the current temporary Medicare add-ons for five years. More details about the Bill can be found below. Let your Representative know that you support H.R. 3236 — 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 to your Representative (Message 1) and the letter(s) to your Senators  (Message 2) – click “Submit Messages”
Feel free to personalize your letter(s) before submitting them.

Active on Social Media? Tweet at your Representative asking for their support of H.R. 3236!

  • Authorize Your Account
  • Enter Contact Information
  • Tweet! (Tweet will be auto-generated with your Senators tagged)
Know your Senators’ Twitter accounts already? Tweet:
“#ambulance svs in your district need you, @[your Representative]! Please co-sponsor HR 3236  to help us continue to provide quality #EMS!”

Post on Facebook why H.R. 3236  is important! Be sure to tag your Representative and encourage others to share your post! Ask others to write letters of support as well! http://bit.ly/AAAbill

More About Our Bill H.R. 3236, the Ambulance Medicare Budget and Operations Act of 2017:
Legislation to extend the Medicare ambulance add-on payments for five years has been introduced by Representatives Nunes, Upton, and Welch (H.R. 3236).
Specifically, the bill:

  • Provides Medicare Ambulance Relief, by extending for five years the current temporary 2 percent urban, 3 percent rural, and super rural bonus payments.
  • Requires the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) to submit a report to Congress detailing the burden of cost reports on the ambulance industry and accuracy of the data received through ambulance cost reports and making recommendations on whether the system should be modified no later than July 1, 2019.
  • Requires CMS to work with stakeholders in the development of an ambulance cost report.

Write to Your Senators! Support S.967

Take Action for Permanent Medicare Ambulance Relief

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”

Active on Social Media? Tweet at your Senators asking for their support of S. 967!

  • Authorize Your Account
  • Enter Contact Information
  • Tweet! (Tweet will be auto-generated with your Senators tagged)
Know your Senators’ Twitter accounts already? Tweet:
“#ambulance svs in your state need you, @[your Senators]! Please co-sponsor S. 967 to help us continue to provide quality #EMS!”


Post on Facebook why S. 967 is important! Be sure to tag your Senators and encourage others to share your post! Ask others to write letters of support as well! http://bit.ly/AAAbill

More About Our Bill S. 967, the 2017 Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act:
Permanent ambulance relief legislation has been introduced by Senators Stabenow, Roberts, Schumer, Collins, and Leahy (S. 967). This legislation will allow ambulance service providers to maintain high quality ambulance services and budget for the future.
Specifically, the bill:

  • Provides Medicare Ambulance Relief, by permanently incorporating the current temporary 2 percent urban, 3 percent rural, and super rural bonus payments into the Medicare ambulance fee schedule rates.
  • Requires the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to submit a report to Congress detailing the features of a reformed payment system for ambulance services under the Medicare program no later than July 1, 2019.
  • Modifies the process for the transport of dialysis patients by requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a process for the prior authorization of coverage for such patients.
  • Treat ambulance services designated as “suppliers” as “providers” for certain purposes under Medicare.
  • Specifies CMS to work with stakeholders in the development of a data collection system for ambulance entities that defines the various types of ambulance entities as well as the relevant cost and data elements required for submission.

Government Affairs Update: Protecting the Ambulance Add-ons

Medicare Ambulance Relief and Reform The top legislative priority this year for the American Ambulance Association is to extend, or hopefully make permanent, the temporary Medicare ambulance add-on payments. The temporary increases of 2% urban, 3% rural and the super rural bonus expire at the end of this year. The 2% urban and 3% rural…

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Ask Your Members of Congress to Cosponsor Permanent Medicare Relief Legislation

Yesterday morning, Congressmen Walden, Welch, Nunes and Neal sent a Dear Colleague to their fellow members of the House of Representatives asking them to cosponsor the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act of 2015 (S. 377, H.R. 745). This bill will make the current temporary ambulance add-on payments permanent for all ambulance services.

Even with our recent victory of a temporary 33-month extension of crucial Medicare ambulance relief, our Champions on Capitol Hill realize the importance of receiving permanent Medicare relief. They, like every ambulance service across the country, understand that a permanent solution is necessary to provide quality health care to individuals and our communities both today and tomorrow.

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Ask Your Members of Congress to Cosponsor Permanent Medicare Relief Legislation

Yesterday morning, Congressmen Walden, Welch, Nunes and Neal sent a Dear Colleague to their fellow members of the House of Representatives asking them to cosponsor the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act of 2015 (S. 377, H.R. 745). This bill will make the current temporary ambulance add-on payments permanent for all ambulance services.

Even with our recent victory of a temporary 33-month extension of crucial Medicare ambulance relief, our Champions on Capitol Hill realize the importance of receiving permanent Medicare relief. They, like every ambulance service across the country, understand that a permanent solution is necessary to provide quality health care to individuals and our communities both today and tomorrow.

Continue reading

Senate Delays Vote on SGR Repeal Package

Early this morning after completing action on a FY 2016 Senate Budget Resolution, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that the Senate would not act on legislation (H.R. 2) to permanently repeal the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula for physicians until after the Easter recess. H.R. 2 includes the 33-month extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance increases. Senate Majority Leader McConnell had sought consideration today of H.R. 2 under unanimous consent which requires the support of all 100 Senators. There were objections to the expedited vote and thus the Senate is now expected to consider the bill when it returns on April 14.

The temporary Medicare ambulance increases expire on March 31. However, contractors have a standard requirement to hold all Medicare claims for 14 days before making payment. The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a notice to contractors formally directing them to utilize this hold. So if the Senate does complete action on H.R. 2 on April 14 there will be no need for reprocessing any claims for the retroactive increases. Should action on H.R. 2 be delayed further, Congress could do a short-term extension or simply allow the provisions to expire for a short period of time. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) have both stated they would like quick consideration of H.R. 2 when the Senate returns.

We will continue to keep you posted of new developments.

House Votes in Favor of Permanent Doc Fix, Bill Moves to the Senate

Earlier today, the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of H.R. 2, doing away with Medicare’s sustainable growth-rate formula and passing a permanent doc fix. The 392-37 vote was overwhelmingly bipartisan. As we reported on March 24, thanks to our champions on Capitol Hill, a 33-month extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance increases was included in the bill. If enacted, the bill would extend the deadline for expiration of Medicare ambulance relief from March 31 until December 31, 2017.

The Senate still needs to pass the bill and is working on a short time-line before they adjourn for recess. Senate Republicans and Democrats have expressed concerns about different aspects of the bill so it is unclear whether the chamber will consider H.R. 2 before it recesses. It is also uncertain if Congress would pass a short-term extension to give the Senate more time or if CMS would be required to formalize its 14-day claim hold policy should H.R. 2 not be enacted before March 31.

In addition to Medicare ambulance relief, the package also includes language from the Protecting Integrity of Medicare Act (H.R. 1021) expanding the current prior authorization pilot programs on repetitive BLS non-emergency ambulance transports in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Starting in January 2016, the bill would expand the programs to Delaware, DC, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia. The program would then expand nationwide starting in January 2017.

The AAA will continue to push for the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act (S. 377, H.R. 745). S. 377 and H.R. 745 would make the current temporary ambulance increases permanent and place our industry in a strong position moving forward for data-driven reforms to the ambulance fee schedule. S. 377 and H.R. 745 would also address fraud and abuse with repetitive BLS non-emergency dialysis transports. While a similar program to the current pilot programs. The prior authorization within S. 377 and H.R. 745 would apply only to dialysis transports and would institute additional safeguards to ensure timely prior authorization for medically necessary transports.

I want to thank all AAA members, staff and consultants who continue to work tirelessly on extending essential Medicare ambulance relief. We will keep you posted of new developments.

House SGR Repeal Package Contains Ambulance Relief Extension

Earlier today, House Republican and Democratic leadership released the complete package (H.R. 2) for a permanent fix to the physician fee schedule. I am happy to report that the AAA through our champions on Capitol Hill was successful in getting a 33-month extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance increases included in the bill. If enacted, the bill would extend the deadline for expiration of Medicare ambulance relief from March 31 until December 31, 2017.

The House is scheduled to consider H.R. 2 on either Thursday or Friday prior to adjourning for the two-week Easter recess. The bill is currently expected to pass the House with bipartisan support. Senate Republicans and Democrats have expressed concerns about different aspects of the bill so it is unclear whether the chamber will consider H.R. 2 before it recesses. It is also unclear if Congress would pass a short-term extension to give the Senate more time or if CMS would be required to formalize its 14-day claim hold policy should H.R. 2 not be enacted before March 31.

The package also includes language from the Protecting Integrity of Medicare Act (H.R. 1021) expanding the current prior authorization pilot programs on repetitive BLS non-emergency ambulance transports in South Carolina, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Starting in January 2016, the bill would expand the programs to Delaware, DC, Maryland, North Carolina, West Virginia and Virginia. The program would then expand nationwide starting in January 2017.

The AAA continues to push for the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act (S. 377, H.R. 745). S. 377 and H.R. 745 would make the current temporary Medicare ambulance increases permanent and place our industry in a strong position moving forward for data-driven reforms to the ambulance fee schedule. S. 377 and H.R. 745 would also address fraud and abuse with repetitive BLS non-emergency dialysis transports. While a similar program to the current pilot programs, the prior authorization within S. 377 and H.R. 745 would apply only to dialysis transports and would institute additional safeguards to ensure timely prior authorization for medically necessary transports.

We will keep you posted of new developments.

Permanent Medicare Ambulance Relief

Please reach out to your members of Congress and ask that they cosponsor the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act (H.R. 745, S. 377) and support an extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance add-on payments.  H.R. 745 and S. 377 would make the current temporary Medicare increases of 2% urban, 3% rural and the super rural bonus payment permanent. Please also ask your members of Congress to support an extension of the increases, which expire on March 31.

In the next few weeks, Congress is expected to consider an extension of the temporary fix to the physician fee schedule. This package would also be the legislative vehicle for an extension of the Medicare ambulance add-on payments. An extension of these increases will ensure the continuation of short-term relief while we push to make the increases permanent. So please write today!

Thank you in advance for writing to your members of Congress.

Advocate for Permanent Medicare Ambulance Relief

The U.S. House of Representatives is currently developing a package on a permanent fix to the physician fee schedule. House Speaker John Boehner recently announced the effort for a permanent fix instead of another extension and the framework of a package is coming together quickly. It is therefore critical that you contact your members of Congress today in support of permanent ambulance relief.

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Permanent Medicare Ambulance Relief Bills Introduced in Congress

I am extremely happy to report our Senate and House champions on Medicare ambulance relief introduced on Wednesday the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act of 2015 (S. 377, H.R. 745). Senators Charles Schumer (D-NY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Senate bill (S. 377) and Congressmen Greg Walden (R-OR), Peter Welch (D-VT), Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Richard Neal (D-MA) introduced the House bill (H.R. 745).