Tag: S. 967

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>

Summary of December 2017 Ambulance Open Door Forum

On December 14, 2017, CMS held its latest Open Door Forum. As usual, it started with a few announcements, as follows:

  1. Ambulance Inflation Factor – CMS announced that it had published Transmittal 3893 on October 27, 2017, which sets forth the Ambulance Inflation Factor (AIF) for calendar year 2018. In that Transmittal, CMS indicated that the CY 2018 AIF would be 1.1%. This is based on an increase in the CPI-U of 1.6%, and a multi-factor productivity adjustment of 0.5%.
  1. Expiration of Temporary Adjustments – CMS indicated that the current temporary adjustments for urban (2%), rural (3%) and super rural ground ambulance transports are set to expire on December 31, 2017. CMS also indicated that they were aware of proposed legislation that would extend these adjustments for 2018 and beyond, but that they have yet to be enacted into law.
  1. CY 2018 Public Use File – CMS indicated that the Public Use File on its website has been updated to include Medicare allowables for 2018. CMS made a point of noting that the 2018 rates do not include the temporary adjustments, as they are set to expire on December 31, 2017.
  1. Prior Authorization Demonstration Project – CMS indicated that it had decided to extend the Prior Authorization Demonstration Project for schedule, non-emergency ground ambulance transportation of repetitive patients for another year. The extension is limited to the 8 states (DE, MD, NJ, NC, PA, SC, VA, and WV) and the District of Columbia in which the program was in effect in 2017.  CMS further indicated that the extension would be effective for dates of service on or after December 5, 2018.  As a result, claims for dates of service between December 2 and December 4 would not be subject to prepayment review if a prior authorization was not received; however, ambulance providers in these states would be permitted to request prior authorization for those dates. CMS further indicated that it had developed a “streamlined” process to allow for prior authorization of transports in situations where the patient was approved for transport, but where the duration of the authorization was shortened from the normal 60-day period to account for the program’s scheduled expiration on December 1, 2017. An example would be an authorization that was granted for transports starting on November 1, 2017. The provider was likely given authorization for only a 30-day period. The streamlined process would allow them to submit a request to allow that 30-day authorization to be extended to a fully 60 days. CMS indicated that the streamlined process would not require the submission of medical records to establish medical necessity for the ambulance.

As with previous forums, CMS then fielded questions from the audience. The majority of these questions focused on the prior authorization process. As with previous ODFs, CMS declined to answer most of the questions on the call, instead asking the provider to submit their questions to CMS via email.

CMS did answer the following questions on the call:

  1. CMS was asked when it anticipated issuing its report on the effectiveness of the Prior Authorization Demonstration Program.  CMS responded that it expected to issue that report during the first quarter of 2018.
  2. CMS was asked when it expected to expand the Prior Authorization Demonstration Program to additional states and/or the nation as a whole.  CMS responded that it was still evaluating the effectiveness of the program.  Therefore, CMS indicated that no decision on national expansion had been made at this time.

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

Act Now: Support 5 Year Medicare Add-on Extension

Take Action for Permanent Medicare Ambulance Relief

Ask your Senators and Representatives to Support Medicare Ambulance Relief!

The temporary Medicare ambulance increases of 2% urban, 3% rural and 22.6% to the base rate in super rural areas are scheduled to expire on December 31 of this year. That is just one month away! Please write your members of Congress today in support of a 5-year extension of the increases.

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.

Over the past 15 years, the AAA has lead efforts on Capitol Hill to establish the increases and ensure they do not expire.  Thanks to the work of our champions and supporters on Capitol Hill, there are provisions in both the House and Senate for a five-year extension of the Medicare ambulance increases.  However, passage of these provisions is in no way certain.  Your members of Congress need to hear that the 5-year extension is important to you!

In addition, the Congress is considering ways to collect Medicare cost data from ambulance service suppliers and providers.  The Senate version, which the AAA prefers, would require a statistically significant sampling of ambulance service suppliers and providers and would provide CMS with significant flexibility on how the system would be designed.  The House version would require all ambulance service suppliers and providers to submit an annual “cost report” which would be subject to a strict financial penalty for not providing timely as well as full data.  We continue to push for changes to the House version and there has been some confusion in the industry about these two provisions.  The bottom-line is that any collection of cost data needs to be tailored to meet the unique needs of ambulance services.

Members of Congress need to hear from you today!  Tell your Senators to support a five-year extension of the Medicare ambulance increases and to cosponsor S. 967.  Tell your Representatives to support a five-year extension of the Medicare ambulance increases and request revisions to cost reporting requirements.

 

Senate Committee Draft Package with 5-year Ambulance Extender

Senate Committee Releases Draft Package with 5-year Ambulance Extender

The Senate Finance Committee has released a discussion draft of its Medicare provider extender package. A five-year extension of the temporary Medicare ambulance add-ons and a modified version of the cost data collection provision from the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act (S. 967) are included in the package. The ambulance provisions being part of the package marks significant progress in the Senate toward a long-term extension of the add-ons and a model cost data collection system.
A five-year extension of the 2% urban and 3% increases and the super rural bonus payment would provide approximately $1 billion in desperately needed Medicare relief for our industry. Having the increases in place for five years would give ambulance service suppliers and providers greater funding stability and help with long-term budgeting. There are now proposals in both the House and Senate with Committee backing which reflect a five-year extension of the add-ons.

The five-year extension reflects the efforts of our champions in the Senate on S. 967. The cost data collection system is also from S. 967 with modifications. Instead of a random sampling of ambulance service providers and suppliers a minimum of every three years, the sampling would occur each year for three years than a minimum of every three years. Also, in place of a 5% penalty in Medicare reimbursement for not submitting cost data if selected to report data, the penalty would be 10%. There is a hardship clause within the draft for CMS to work with ambulance service suppliers to ensure they are not penalized. The provision is also streamlined from the version introduced in S. 967.

We greatly appreciate the efforts of Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as champions of S. 967 and Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) on getting the ambulance provisions into the draft. We also thank Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) as Chairman and Ranking Member respectively of the Senate Finance Committee for their support.

While the discussion draft includes the five-year extension of Medicare ambulance add-ons and cost data collection provisions, there is still a long way to go. If your Senators are not already cosponsors of S. 967, please reach out to them today and ask they cosponsor the bill. Write to your Senators using the AAA online letter writing tool below, or go to:  https://ambulance.org/advocacy/


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 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”

Summary of September 2017 Ambulance Open Door Forum

On September 14, 2017, CMS held its latest Open Door Forum. As usual, it started with a few announcements, as follows:

  1. “Locality” Rule – On 6/16/17 CMS issued Transmittal 236, to amend the Benefit Policy Manual, Chapter 10, section 10.3.5 to give Medicare Administrative Contractors discretion to determine the “locality”. This is for the issue of the nearest appropriate facility.

Transmittal 236

  1. ALS Assessment – The same Transmittal also amended section 30.1.1 to indicate that if an ALS assessment is performed, then the ALS emergency base rate shall be paid, even if there is no ALS intervention.
  2. Multiple Patient Transports – On 9/1/17, CMS issued Transmittal 3855 to restore to its Claims Processing Manual, Chapter 15, section 30.1.2 instructions for multiple patients transported in the same vehicle. This is not a change in policy. The section was inadvertently omitted from the Internet Only Manual.

Transmittal 3855

  1. Temporary Adjustments – The 2%, 3% and 22.6% temporary adjustments for ground ambulance transports originating in urban, rural and super-rural areas will expire 12/31/17, unless legislation is enacted. Later on the call, they indicated that they are aware of a legislative initiative in Congress that includes this issue (S.967, H.R. 3236).

Support Extending the Medicare Add-ons!

       Following these announcements, a Q & A period ensued. Most of the questions were not answered on the call, other than to advise the caller to submit their question via e-mail and CMS will respond to their concern via e-mail or to contact their Medicare Administrative Contractor.

Two items of note in the Q & A were as follows:

  • CMS has left it up to the MACs to define the “locality” for purposes of the nearest appropriate facility requirement. Therefore, providers and suppliers should ask their MAC for their definition.
  • CMS was asked whether the prior authorization program would continue nationwide, after this year. The representatives from CMS did not answer the question other than to advise the person who asked the question to submit it in writing to CMS.

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

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.

Now On-Demand: Member Government Affairs Webinar

The American Ambulance Association (AAA) hosted the Government Affairs and Member Forum on June 29 to provide an update on legislation on the expiring temporary Medicare ambulance add-on payments, the immediate and long-term goals of AAA on Medicare reform, and how members can get involved with ambulance service-related issues. Mark Postma, president of AAA, and a panel of experts covered varied topics, including where Senate Bill S.967 stands and what changes might occur within the industry, and then fielded questions from members to offer a better understanding of regulatory issues and what’s happening in Washington.

“We put a forum together at this critical time because we currently have a Senate bill to make the add-on permanent, and we’ve been working on a House bill for a long-term extension of the add-ons to be dropped soon,” said Postma. “We have been working diligently to get the appropriate bills introduced, to keep the Medicare extenders and other items that we’ll discuss in this forum.”

Capitol Hill Landscape

The Senate “Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act” (S.967) has bipartisan support and is currently being championed Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Pat Roberts (R-KS), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). The bill would make permanent the temporary Medicare add-ons, treat ambulance service suppliers more like providers, cut down on dialysis transport fraud and abuse, and implement our preferred cost-data collection system that is beneficial, not burdensome, to ambulance services.

The AAA is currently working on the language for a bill to introduce the House of Representatives. While the bill has yet to be introduced, the AAA is collaborating with our House supporters and Committee staff to put together a bill that, at the very least, extends the Medicare add-ons for five years.  The bill will also include cost-data reporting on which the AAA is negotiating the final details.

“This year really is critical for us,” said Tristan North, senior vice president of government affairs for AAA. “We need to make sure  the Medicare add-on payments don’t expire on December 31.”

Going Forward

The panel discussed immediate, intermediate, and long-term goals to improve the ambulance fee schedule in the foreseeable future. The pending legislation covers many of the immediate goals, but AAA consultant Kathy Lester offered information that could impact the industry in the future.

Lester talked about better defining nonemergency services, the “Uber-ization” of medical transport, and what community paramedicine means to ambulance service providers.

The panel agreed that members and the community need to show their support for legislation, causes, and issues that will shape the future of ambulance services. It was suggested that members advocate to their representatives and leaders—offering to take them on ambulance “ride-alongs,” writing letters, or showing up at government functions—and explain to them how important these pieces of legislation and resources are to the EMS profession.

“We’re working hard and hoping for change in the future,” AAA’s Chair of Government Affairs, Jamie Pafford-Gresham, said. “We need you professionals and the relationships you have with your elected officials… your voices matter to Congress and they matter to us.”

Watch On Demand

Download the PowerPoint

 

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.