On Monday, November 29, 2021, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri – Eastern Division has issued a preliminary injunction staying the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Mandatory Vaccination Emergency Temporary Standards (ETS) which were set to take effect on January 4, 2022. This preliminary injunction currently only applies to healthcare providers in the plaintiff states.
On November 10, 2021, the States of Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, and New Hampshire filed a nine (9) count complaint in the United States Court for the Eastern District of Missouri seeking relief from the CMS Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) which requires certain certified healthcare facilities to mandate COVID-19 vaccination of all employees, contractors, and those performing services “under arrangement.” The complaint alleged that the ETS violates numerous provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act (APA), the Social Security Act (SSA), that CMS failed to consult with the state agencies that would be charged with enforcing such a mandate, failure to perform an impact analysis of the new rules, and several other Constitutional violations.
In the ruling, U.S. District Judge Matthew T. Schelp, agreed with the plaintiffs that a preliminary injunction was warranted because it posed an irreparable harm and that the plaintiffs demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of their complaint. The thirty-two (32) page ruling cites that Congress did not give CMS the authority to enact the mandatory vaccination regulations, nor authorized CMS to issue regulations that pre-empt validly enacted state legislation that contradict these new rules. The court believed that the plaintiffs would likely be able to show that CMS violated numerous administrative and rulemaking procedures.
Throughout the ruling the court cited the likelihood of significant harm to state sovereignty and how the implementation of the rule’s requirements would cause substantial economic harm to both the states and the healthcare facilities. Not only through the cost of implementation but also through the impact to a healthcare facility’s ability to provide care due to employees who refuse to get vaccinated.
This ruling is only applicable to covered healthcare facilities in the states of Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, and New Hampshire. It is unknown if the stay will be expanded to other jurisdictions. Additionally, the OSHA Vaccination & Testing ETS is currently enjoined and OHSA has announced that they will halt implementation and enforcement associated with those rules. Despite these rulings, many EMS employers are subject to the mandatory vaccination requirements under the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force COVID-19 Workplace Safety: Guidance for Federal Contractors and Subcontractors.
I advise employers to take the initial steps toward compliance while these cases proceed through the legal system. EMS employers are already required to have policies and procedures to determine and maintain a log of their employee’s vaccination status. Additionally, many EMS employers have already been contacted by their contracted healthcare facilities who have enacted a vaccine mandate, either prior to, or in response to the CMS ETS. These facilities may still independently require your staff to be vaccinated.
I recognize that these are incredibly challenging times. If your organization has questions or need assistance deciphering or preparing for these requirements, please contact the AAA by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
From CNN on May 22, 2021
Rural ambulance crews are running out of money and volunteers. In some places, the fallout could be nobody responding to a 911 call
America’s rural ambulance services, often sustained by volunteers, are fighting for their survival — a crisis hastened by the impact of Covid-19.
More than one-third of all rural EMS are in danger of closing, according to Alan Morgan, CEO of the National Rural Health Association. “The pandemic has further stretched the resources of our nation’s rural EMS.”
REPLICA Meets Goal, Interstate Compact Becomes Official
May 8, 2017
For Immediate Release
May 8, 2017 (Falls Church, VA). With the 10th member state enactment, the Recognition of
Emergency Medical Services Licensure Interstate Compact (REPLICA) has become official.
Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia signed Senate Bill 109 on today activating the nation’s first EMS
licensure compact. States that have passed REPLICA to date include: Colorado, Texas, Kansas,
Virginia, Tennessee, Idaho, Utah, Mississippi, Wyoming and Georgia.
Released in 2014, REPLICA’s model legislation creates a formal pathway for the licensed individual
to provide pre-hospital care across state lines under authorized circumstances. According to Keith
Wages, president of the National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO), “REPLICA
represents a collective, nationwide effort to address the problems faced by responders when needing
to cross state borders in the line of their duties.” Wages highlighted the compact’s abilities to
“increase access to healthcare, reduce regulatory barriers for EMS responders, and place an
umbrella of quality over cross border practice not previously seen in the EMS profession.” Wages
also noted that the partnership with the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians
(NREMT) has been essential during the advocacy and implementation phases. “We are grateful for
their continued support and contributions.”
Through funding provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), NASEMSO led 23 EMS,
fire, law enforcement organizations and associations as well as key federal partners in the design and
drafting of REPLICA. The National Registry of EMTs (NREMT) currently provides funding to finalize
the development of the Commission.
The compact calls for establishment of an Interstate Commission with each state that has passed
REPLICA holding a seat, as well as a national EMS personnel coordinated database. Member states
will be able to rapidly share personnel licensure information, develop policy focused only on cross
border EMS practice, and hold EMS personnel originating in other states accountable in an
unprecedented way. The National Registry of EMT’s (NREMT) has committed to the development
and hosting of the coordinated database.
Twelve national associations and organizations support REPLICA. Three states have REPLICA bills
under consideration in their legislative sessions. Learn more at www.emsreplica.org.
By: Tristan North and Kathy Lester, JD, MPH
This is the first of a two part Member Advisory by Tristan North and Kathy Lester on ACA Repeal & Reform. To continue reading, see Part Two: ACA Repeal & Reform – What It Means for Ambulance Services (Pt. 2).
A top priority of President Trump and congressional Republicans is to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Since Republicans retook control of Congress in 2012 after passage of the ACA in 2010, they have sought to repeal the ACA. However, they had not developed a consensus on a replacement package, as they knew then-President Obama would veto the repeal bill. Now with President Trump in the White House and Republicans controlling the House and Senate, Republicans in the House have agreed upon a package and moved it through three Committees of jurisdiction: the Ways and Means Committee, the Energy and Commerce Committee, and the Budget Committee. Republicans in the Senate are less aligned and are said to be working on their own package, which is likely to differ in important ways from the House version.
For ambulance services, there are several key components to watch. These are:
- Coverage for ambulance services. Expressed in terms of providing more flexibility, there is concern that some insurers are pushing and some Republicans agree that the concept of a minimum set of covered services (essential health benefits (EHB)) should be narrowed or even eliminated. Currently, only emergency services are included as an EHB, but through the designation of benchmark plans, non-emergency services have also been covered. If the benchmark plans requirements are modified, coverage for non-emergency services could become an issue.
- Medicaid expansion. The Administration has sent a clear signal that it plans to roll back the expansion of Medicaid, which provide coverage to many Americans who had signed up under the ACA. For ambulance services in expansion States, the elimination of this program could result in more uncompensated care problems.
- Coverage more generally. Republicans have clearly indicated a desire to eliminate the individual mandate. This could have two effects that may impact ambulance services. First, if people are not required to have coverage there are many who will not have it. It is not certain whether without coverage these individuals will be able to pay for the services they receive, which could lead to more uncompensated care. Second, individuals who do not purchase health insurance often are younger and healthier. Without such individuals in the risk pool, it is possible that premiums and other cost-sharing requirements will increase making it more likely for sicker individuals who cannot afford care becoming uninsured.
- Employer costs and obligations. The House Republican legislation includes several provisions that relax the obligations and/or provide tax relief to employers providing health insurance. Such provisions could be beneficial to ambulance services in terms of providing health care coverage for their employees.
In addition, there are a few other provisions that the current bills being considered do not modify, but potential could be part of the discussions at some point or in subsequent Medicare legislation. Of these, there are three that would directly impact ambulance services.
- Productivity Adjustment. As part of the ACA, the annual inflation updates for the Medicare ambulance fee schedule rates are now subject to a productivity adjustment, which reduces the amount of the update. CMS subtracts a projection of the non-farm business multi-factor productivity adjustment (MFP) from the Consumer Price Index – Urban to determine the update amount.
- Inflation Index Below Zero. Prior to the ACA, the Medicare inflation update for ambulance rates could not be a negative percentage. Under ACA policies, the update may be a negative percentage. For example, in 2011, the CPI-U was 1.1 percent and the productivity adjustment was 1.2 percent, which resulted in a cut to the rates of 0.1 percent. In 2016, the CPI-U was 0.1 percent and the productivity adjustment was 0.5 percent, which resulted in a cut of 0.4 percent.
- GPCI Increases. The ACA made a temporary change to the practice expense component of the physician geographical price cost index (GPCI), which is the entire GPCI for reimbursement under the Medicare ambulance fee schedule. The change established a minimum 1.0 GPCI for ambulance payments from January 1, 2010, to December 31, 2010. As a result of these changes, rates under the Medicare ambulance fee schedule for localities with a GPCI of less than 1.0 saw an additional temporary increase in reimbursement rates. Localities with a GPCI of 1.0 or higher were not be affected by the provision. The provision was retroactive to January 1, 2010 and the increases escalated for 2011 before expiring on December 31, 2011.
The ACA also established a permanent GPCI floor of 1.0 for “frontier” States which took effect in 2011. The designation of a “frontier” applies to those states in which 50 percent of the counties are frontier which have less than 6 people per square mile. The designation is updated with the original frontier states consisting of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming. Utah is no longer deemed frontier and Nevada has been added to the list. While a complete repeal of the ACA would not impact the temporary GPCI increases as the provisions were temporary, it would eliminate frontier status.