ACE in South Dakota!

ACE Faculty Michelle Anderson and Steve Wirth presented at the South Dakota Ambulance Association’s annual conference on February 12, 2022.

 

There are about 125 ambulance services in South Dakota, many are small, rural, and mostly

volunteer. One volunteer ambulance service attending the ACE Cost Collection Workshop runs 6 calls per year on average!

The participation of small, rural services like those in South Dakota, many of which run less than 100 calls per year, is critical. The cost of operation, the cost per transport, is so much higher in these rural and super rural areas than compared to more urban areas with higher call volume. If small,

rural services do not participate in the cost collection survey or do not have the tools to provide accurate data, the outcome will be skewed data that does not accurately represent the actual costs of providing prehospital, mobile healthcare across the country.

The South Dakota Ambulance Association is a successful and engaged group of individuals who are dedicated to assuring the success of EMS in their state. Approximately 100 participants attended the ACE workshop, with many of the providers coming from miles away that dedication is evident. Thoughtful questions and involved conversations helped for a great understanding

of the Cost Data Collection information. We were honored to be a part of this conference and thank the South Dakota Ambulance Association for inviting us!

If you’re interested in hosting an ACE workshop, webinar, or conference session let us know by filling out this form.

Important CMS Ambulance Cost Data Collection Steps for January 2022

It is finally here. Fifty (50%) of the EMS organizations will begin collecting ground ambulance cost data in 2022 for reporting by May 2023. The other half of the EMS organizations will collect their data beginning in 2023 for reporting by May 2024. All of this, to comply with the new CMS Ground Ambulance Data Collection System.  For the last several years, the AAA and the ACE faculty have been performing workshops and webinars about these new cost collection requirements because the data collected will be used to reform the Medicare Fee Schedule and the way EMS organizations are reimbursed for years to come.

We wanted to highlight the steps that EMS organizations should be taking today to facilitate the collection of accurate cost-related data. Due to the way the Ambulance Cost Data Collection Instrument asks for certain information, it will be necessary for you and your team to capture some data at the beginning of the collection period. It will be difficult, if not impossible, for organizations to retroactively capture this data.

2. Access Amber
Knowing that there are significant differences amongst EMS organizations when it comes to the various processes and software platforms where cost data might be housed, the AAA decided to create a software platform specifically designed for the new Medicare Ground Ambulance Cost Data Collection System. Amber is a web-based software built to model the CMS Cost Collection Tool and follows the same skip-logic. EMS organizations can start and stop, go back, adjust, and validate your data before submitting it to CMS. The built-in error checker makes it easy to identify mistakes, or possible mistakes, and make corrections.

AAA members already have access to Amber as part of their membership, but Amber is available to all EMS services regardless of AAA membership or service type. To log in or request free access, visit https://emsamber.com/.

2. Verify the Information in PECOS
PECOS is the Provider Enrollment and Chain of Ownership System utilized by Medicare for provider enrollment and revalidation. It is important that the organization verify all the data about their organization in PECOS but specifically the ownership, contact address, and managing employee information. You want to ensure that CMS has the correct contact information in case they need to notify your organization relative to your cost data collection process. If your organization was selected but you have not been notified by your Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC), it could be because your information is not up to date.

3. Contact Your Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC)
If you were selected for data collection in 2022, you should have already received a notification from your MAC. This notification includes that your organization was selected and that you need to notify the MAC whether your organization will report on a calendar or fiscal year. Whether you have received this notification or not, you should contact your MAC to confirm this information and ensure that they have noted your collection year in their system. If you do not, the default designation is reporting on a calendar year. You will create additional work if this is not how your organization currently accounts for your financial data.

4. Snapshot of Personnel
Section 7 of the Medicare Ground Ambulance Cost Data Collection Instrument seeks information about the labor costs at your EMS organization. Organizations will be providing the total compensation and hours for their employees by employee category.

However, the Instruments asks organizations to report individuals based upon the position they held at the start of the data collection period. If an employee progresses from an EMT to Paramedic during the course of the year, the instrument requires that the new paramedic’s hours and compensation be in the EMT category.

There are a few possible ways that organizations can ensure that they report their labor costs consistent with the Instrument’s instructions. The easiest is to take a snapshot of the personnel roster at the beginning of the data collection year. Ensure that any employee who changes position during the year be tagged and reported appropriately. Many of the scheduling software platforms have existing additional “other” identifier field in the administration set up for employees. Also, most payroll software platforms have canned reports in their reporting suite that identifies employees with status changes during a particular period. Lastly, you can simply keep a list of any employee who, for reporting purposes, you need to go back and adjust your compensation and hour reporting to ensure you have accounted for their costs consistent with the Cost Collection Instrument.

5. Track Volunteer Time/Hours
Also, in Section 7 of the Instrument, organizations that utilize volunteer labor are required to report the number of hours their volunteers worked during the data collection period. Many EMS organizations that utilize volunteer labor do not currently track their volunteer employee’s time. The organization must establish a process for ensuring that they have a method for tracking the working hours of their volunteer employees during the reporting period. This can be done utilizing various software or manual processes. Whichever way your organization decides to track this information, it will be easier to start the data collection period with an established process.

6. Update/Modify Your Dispatch System & Processes
The Cost Data Collection Instrument requires that the organization to report their average trip time (in minutes) across all service levels (BLS, ALS, etc.) in your primary service area. This is calculated from the time the ambulance leaves the station to when that ambulance is available to take another call.

To ensure that you are capturing the data consistent with the Instrument’s definition of “average trip time,” organizations can either make adjustments to their dispatch software or simply ensure that your dispatchers/communications personnel are accounting for the time it takes your ambulance to return to their service area where the ambulance is “available to take another call.”  For many services transporting long distances to destinations outside their service area, the ambulance is not “available to respond to another call” when they clear the receiving facility. Failing to account for this time is truly not providing CMS with an accurate picture of the costs of providing ambulance services.

7. Snapshot of Vehicle Mileage
Section 9 of the Cost Collection Instruments seeks the total number of miles the organization’s vehicles traveled over the course of the data collection period. The easiest way to get this information is to take a snapshot of the starting mileage on all vehicles (ambulance and non-ambulance) at the start of the data collection year. The agency can take another snapshot at the end of the data collection year. This will ensure that the total agency mileage can be captured for all vehicles for the data collection period.

8. Check Payor Categories
Section 13 of the Instrument asks the EMS organization to report all revenues received by the organization, including those not related to the provision of ground ambulance services. The instrument requires that the organization report revenues in the following payor categories:

  • Medicare
  • Medicare Managed Care
  • Medicaid
  • Medicaid Managed Care
  • Tricare
  • Veteran’s Administration (VA)
  • Commercial Insurance
  • Worker’s Compensation
  • Patient Self-Pay

Many billing software platforms do not distinguish between a standard commercial payor and a worker’s compensation payor. It is important that organizations make modifications to the payor set-up in their billing platform to ensure that they can easily illicit their revenue information according to the required payor categories.

These eight steps are what we believe are the critical initial steps to ensure that your organization can more easily and accurately collect and report your ground ambulance cost data. We believe that cost collection is an important step in our profession’s evolution and will frame the reimbursement structure for years to come.

The AAA has created a great number of resources and tools to assist you and your team when preparing and completing the Cost Collection Instrument.  These can be found by visiting the Cost Collection section of the AAA website. Contact hello@ambulance.org if you have any questions or need assistance.

Lessons Learned From the CMS Cost Data Collection Tool Walkthrough

Recently, one of our ACE Faculty members, Katie Arens had the opportunity to review the CMS Cost Data Collection Survey tool and provide feedback to the administration on any challenges faced while completing the survey.  After completing the test we wanted to provide you with some quick tips on how you can be better prepared and ready to complete the tool successfully.

  1. Number one RULE, do not wait until the last minute to complete the survey.  I found that even with having my data ready, we still needed to stop and gather additional information from other departments and wait for their response before we could continue.
  2. You need to assign a data entry representative who will be responsible for entering the data as well as a data certifier who will go in once the survey is completed and certify that the data submitted is accurate to the best of your knowledge.  It would be best that both parties are working together during the process.
  3. Ensure that all parties within your organization that you may need to pull from will be available during the period of time you are completing the survey, i.e. Accounting/Payables, Human Resources, Operations, Billing, and IT support for both your internal organization, but also your vendors in the event you have software malfunctions.
  4. Keep track of where you are inputting data, it’s easy within the survey to enter the same data more than once especially when reporting costs.  As you enter your numbers, highlight them on your own documentation so you know you already reported in a previous section of the tool.  Do not report twice, if you feel you reported it in the wrong section of the survey, you can remove it and replace it where you feel it fits best.
  5. Take your time, don’t guess when responding.  When in doubt, STOP and reach out to your resources to ensure you are reporting accurately. AAA will have plenty of support to assist you during this process if you are unsure.

Since the survey is not live for all Ambulance Providers, the best way to be prepared NOW is to gain access to AMBER and go through each section of the survey now so you can ensure your systems are set up for the coming year(s) to capture your data easily in a reportable manner.  Continue to review AMBER throughout the year to make sure you remain familiar with the sections you need to report on and provide feedback to various departments that need to be involved.

CMS Announces Ambulance Services Selected for Year 2 Data Collection

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced the names of those ground ambulance service providers and suppliers who will be required to submit their data for year 2 under the ambulance data collection system. To see the list of providers and suppliers selected for year 2, please go to the Ambulances Services Center page of the CMS website and scroll down to “Ground Ambulance Providers and Suppliers Selected to Submit Data in Year 2 (Zip)” or click here to download the file directly.

Those providers and suppliers selected for either year 2 or year 1 will need to capture and report their data for a 12-month period beginning between January 1, 2022 and December 31, 2022. Providers and suppliers will have 5 months from the end of their reporting period in which to submit their data to CMS. CMS delayed the capturing and reporting of ambulance data due to the COVID-19 public health emergency.

CMS Announces Educational Opportunity for Ambulance Data Collection

CMS is hosting a Medicare Learning Matters event on December 5, 2019 from 1:30 – 3:00 EST on Ground Ambulance Data Collection. From the MLN article:

During this call, get an overview of the new Ground Ambulance Data Collection system, including:

  • Background
  • Selection of organizations required to report
  • Detailed discussion of the Data Collection Instrument

A question and answer session follows the presentation; however, you may email questions in advance to AmbulanceDataCollection@cms.hhs.gov with “December 5 Call” in the subject line. These questions may be addressed during the call or used for other materials following the call. For more Information, including providers selected for the first round of reporting, see the Ambulance Services Center webpage, CY 2020 Physician Fee Schedule final rule, and Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018.

Register now for this important event!

 

 

CMS Publishes Final Rule on Ambulance Cost Data Collection

November 1, 2019  the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the final rule on the “Establishment of an Ambulance Data Collection System”. The rule was issued as part of the “Medicare Program; CY 2020 Revisions to Payment Policies under the Physician Fee Schedule and Other Changes to Part B Payment Policies” [CMS-1715-F and IFC]. The final rule is scheduled for official publication in the November 15 issue of the Federal Register.

The AAA is currently reviewing the final rule to determine changes on the ambulance data collection system from the policies as outlined in the proposed rule of August 15. The proposed rule set forth a system utilizing a survey tool and sampling of ambulance service providers and suppliers as directed by Congress and supported by the AAA. The AAA did, however, submit comments with suggestions as how to fine-tune the process and tool. The AAA also submitted a second letter on the section of the proposal rule making changes related to the physician certification statement (PCS).

We will be issuing a follow up Member Advisory next week with the specific final policy changes on the ambulance data collection system and PCS outlined in the final rule.

Final Rule

Data Collection Instrument – FINAL

2020 Selected Providers and Suppliers

FAQ’s

Quick Reference Guide

 

 

CMS Releases Proposed Cost Collection Rule

CMS has released the proposed rule that would establish the ambulance fee schedule cost collection system as required by statute.

The proposed rule sets the foundation for the data collection system for ground ambulances.  It proposes a stratified random sample method, that is very similar to the one the AAA proposed via the work we commissioned through The Moran Company. We are working through the stratification categories, which are slightly different than those we identified.

CMS also proposes the cost and revenue data elements it plans to use.  There are some details in the proposed rule text and others will be in the proposed tool that will be posted the CMS website today.

CMS also proposes the collection period and penalties for failing to report.

While the data collection provision was the key component for ground ambulance services, CMS also proposed changes to the PCS requirement sought by the AAA. CMS is proposing to reference the PCS also as non-physician certification agreements. The agency is further proposing to clarify that the focus is on the certification of the medical necessity provisions and the form of the certification statement is not prescribed.  As part of the non-physician statement, CMS is proposing expanding the staff of you may sign the statement when an attending physician is unable to sign.

AAA Members Can Download Full PDF Summary by Kathy Lester, Esq.

Read the Proposed Rule

Questions?: Contact Us:

If you have questions about the legislation or regulatory initiatives being undertaken by the AAA, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the AAA Government Affairs Team.

Tristan North – Senior Vice President of Government Affairs
tnorth@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9025

Aidan Camas – Manager of State & Federal Government Affairs
acamas@ambulance.org | (202) 802-9026

Thank you for your continued membership and support.

Quick Takes: Cost of Readiness

There is a widespread recognition in the industry that reimbursement doesn’t fully take into account the costs of service readiness. But until 2020, we haven’t had data to support that understanding. The new cost data collection requirements give us that opportunity IF we are able to gather and report readiness data effectively and accurately. As part of our Quick Takes series, we talk about these issues and give some things to think about in your service right away.

Quick Takes: The Role Of Service Mix

The data collection that launches in less than 10 months will include a wide variety of elements. Service area and service mix may seem like minor pieces of the collection, but they play a big role in analysis of utilization. As part of our Quick Takes series, we identify some questions you should be able to answer about YOUR service in order to be ready.

Volunteer Labor: Understanding the True Cost of Doing Business

There are three parts to ever story – a beginning, a middle, and an end. Likewise, there are three parts to running an ambulance service (humor me here); clinical staff (beginning) patients (middle) and administrators (end). This comparison is over-simplified, but the point is this – whether you are a 5-person volunteer service or a 5-state ambulance service, it takes the same basic things to operate. When it comes to cost data collection and ensuring organizations like CMS understand the true cost of doing business, we need to make sure we are sharing our individual stories in the same way.

Full-Time ambulance services can likely report the cost of doing business relatively easily. They can run reports on the number of FTEs they have, how much they’re spending in overtime, equipment costs, and so on. Volunteer organizations have a slightly different story. When some hear about an organization that runs on volunteer labor, they mistakenly connect the word volunteer to free or cheap. The true story is that many costs go into operating a volunteer service, and a volunteer workforce is anything but free or cheap. Understanding how to calculate the true cost of volunteer labor is a critical skill for those charged with running a service that utilizes volunteers in isolation or as part of a mixed workforce.

On February 6th, the American Ambulance Association is hosting an Ambulance Cost Data Collection webinar on the topic of volunteer labor and how to calculate the cost of a volunteer workforce.

Some of the items Scott Moore Esq., HR and Operations consultant for the AAA, will review in the webinar are:

• EMS industry volunteer organizational and labor statistics in the United States
• National statistics for calculating the value of volunteer labor
• Methodologies and formulas other Medicare reimbursed healthcare providers must furnish as part of their industry Medicare Cost Reports
• How EMS agency’s use and percentage of volunteer labor has historically impacted GAO reports and reimbursement rates
• Key cost related factors that will be required to report labor costs for volunteers accurately
• The importance of tracking the hours of all volunteers by position.
• Which costs you should include when calculating the cost of volunteer labor and those commonly missed

Calculating the cost of volunteer labor is undoubtedly one of the more difficult, and most important, components of the cost data collection process. This webinar will leave you with a standard formula you can use to calculate the cost of volunteer labor within your service. If you are leading a volunteer organization, you need to participate in this webinar along with the individual or team that looks after your finances.

Looking for more ambulance cost data collection content? Visit www.ambulancereports.org. You will find both free resources and paid subscriptions are available to fit your budget and help your service prepare for the future of EMS.

Request for Proposals—SME/Project Director

American Ambulance Association
Request for Proposals
SME/ Project Director
Ambulance Cost Data Collection
November 2018

Overview

The American Ambulance Association (AAA) invites proposals from qualified interested parties (individual and teams) for the purpose of directing the Ambulance Cost Data Project as a Subject Matter Expert (SME).

Introduction

As part of the extension of the Ambulance Medicare Add on payments, legislation passed on February 9, 2018, the Congress mandated that ambulance services provide cost data.  General requirements of the legislation include the following:

  • Requires notice-and-comment rulemaking
  • May use a cost survey
  • Collect (1) cost; (2) revenue; (3) utilization; and (4) other information determined appropriate by the Secretary
  • Include information: (1) needed to evaluate the extent to which costs are related to payment rates; (2) on the utilization of capital equipment and ambulance capacity; and (3) on different types of ground ambulance services furnished in different geographic locations and low population density areas
  • May revise the system over time
  • Select a representative sample of providers and suppliers from whom to collect data
  • Determined based on the type of providers and suppliers and the geographic locations
  • May not be request same provider or supplier to submit data in two consecutive years
  • A selected to report must do so in the form and manner and at the time specified by the Secretary
  • If a selected and do not report, then may be subject to a 10 percent payment reduction, unless the hardship exemption
  • Opportunity to request a review of the application of the penalty
  • Information collected available through the CMS Website

AAA Cost Data Collection Objectives

The purpose of the AAA Cost Data Collection is to develop education and service lines to assist the industry in preparing to accurately respond to the federally mandated cost data collection system as designed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Objectives to include:

  1. Standardization of the education of the cost data collection system including standardization of terms.
  2. The development of a cost data app to be universally distributed and used by ambulance services to report costs.
  3. AAA’s cost data recommendations are considered the industry standard and tools are widely distributed and used by the majority stakeholders of the industry.
  4. Initial (beta) data used to analyze and validate cost collection system, and provide data needed to continue lobbying Congress on additional reimbursement payments.

Proposed Project Director (SME) Scope of Work

In order to achieve the above objectives, the following is the proposed director (SME) scope of work:

  • Review and comment on AAA Cost Data Collection deliverables, including publications, education efforts, and online tools, helping to maximize accessibility and utility while verifying accuracy.
  • In partnership with the Technology and Education contractor, provide industry and ambulance service support, both reactively in answering questions and proactively in presentations both remotely and in person.
  • In collaboration with the AAA Cost Data Collection Faculty, contribute and edit content for the data collection operational definitions.
  • Update website, write articles, member communications and information pieces for distribution and website posting.
  • Working with the Technology and Education contractor, monitor and support the receipt of initial data, reviewing to identify missing fields and outliers; follow-up and clean data as needed.
  • Using data generated by the data collection system, generate articles and reports reflecting analysis and synthesis.
  • As requested, prepare reports and provide counsel to the AAA Board throughout the term of the project.

Proposed Project Timeline

December, 2018 — Board Consideration of AAA Cost Data Collection Proposal and Budget Request

January 1, 2019 — Hire SME

January–February 2019 — Development of operational definitions

March–April 2019 — Review and finalization of operational definitions

Summer 2019 — Review of Amber online toolset, support of pilot testing

September-December — Ongoing education – including train the trainer materials and final pre-launch education

Throughout 2019 — Ongoing educational and awareness-raising work, development and enhancement of website content

Instructions for Submission of Responses

Please include the following information in your Response.

  • Cover letter indicating cost for providing services as outlines in the RFP.
  • Resume and/or Curriculum Vitae (CV)
  • A list of three references (including phone numbers), as well as a brief description of the project for the reference
  • Any samples you wish to use to showcase your work as a project director and/or SME

Submit the above materials to Maria Bianchi electronically at mbianchi@ambulance.org.

We would appreciate a response to the proposal no later than Friday, December 7, 2018.

If you have any questions, contact Maria Bianchi at 301-758-2927.

Quick Takes: NPIs

As part of our new Quick Takes series, here’s a brief discussion about the issues around having single or multiple NPIs under the new data collection requirements. Interested in taking a deeper dive into this topic? Learn from our panel of experts during the webinar Single vs. Multiple NPIs: Challenges and Opportunities on Tuesday, December 11th.

Statement on Cost Data Collection for Ambulance Services

For Immediate Release
Contact: Amanda Riordan
Phone: 703-615-4492
Email: ariordan@ambulance.org

WASHINGTON, DC—On October 17, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), and The Metropolitan Fire Chiefs Association released a joint statement discouraging fire-based providers from endorsing AAA’s proposed ambulance cost collection methodology. While we regret to learn that they do not believe that our method is appropriate for the segment of providers they represent, we respectfully disagree and invite open dialogue as our previous requests to discuss cost collection with the IAFF and IAFC were declined.

The American Ambulance Association membership is composed of ambulance providers of all types and sizes, ranging from non-profit, for-profit, volunteer, hospital-based, county-based, public utility models, and more. We represent 911 ambulance providers in major metropolitan areas, small 911 providers in rural America, and those who provide vital hospital-to-hospital interfacility mobile healthcare throughout the country. AAA encourages all ambulance providers to visit www.ambulancereports.org to learn about the extensive research, time, and thought devoted to ensure that our comprehensive recommendations accurately capture data for the full spectrum of providers.

“Regardless of an ambulance organization’s service model, we collectively serve our communities with round-the-clock mobile healthcare. The collection and analysis of accurate cost data for ambulance providers of all types is essential to the future of our industry. If adopted by CMS, AAA’s cost collection recommendations will demonstrate the value of the care that we provide to our patients, as well as open the door for the establishment of forward-thinking payment models that sustain operations and grow innovation. The American Ambulance Association welcomes discussion with fire and other stakeholders. Our door is always open,” said AAA President Aarron Reinert on Monday.

Medicare cost reporting is an exhaustive and extremely technical system that has been in place in other healthcare specialties for many years. While not all ambulance services are Medicare “providers of service,” it has long been clear to AAA that ambulance services would eventually be required to provide cost data to support Medicare reimbursement, especially for purposes of making the add-ons permanent and expanding the benefit to include innovative payment models, including mobile integrated health. As such, our ambulance cost collection leadership began in 2012 with the commission of an extensive independent research study to design a cost model that would be accurate, complete, and minimally burdensome to ambulance providers of all sizes, types, and models. The findings of this study were released in 2014 and form the foundation of AAA’s cost data collection system design.

Following extensive advocacy efforts led by the American Ambulance Association, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 was passed into law in February of this year. This bill included language that extended the ambulance Medicare add-ons for five years. It also required that ambulance services begin collecting and reporting cost data to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) in 2020. CMS has the ability to determine certain aspects of how the data is collected as well as the data elements so AAA is working closely with this agency to advocate for the implementation of our survey-based model. It is also clear that given the Congressional instruction to use the cost collection data to assess Medicare rates, the data collection will be aligned with the costs Medicare has the statutory authority to reimburse, but not necessarily all costs suppliers may incur to support the non-healthcare aspects of their services.

It is essential that ambulance providers speak with one voice on this critically important issue.  Inconsistencies in reporting and failure to standardize costs allowable under the Medicare statute will result in data being eliminated and will threaten the sustainability of the program. As such, throughout this lengthy and intensive process, AAA leadership remains open to feedback and focused on the development of and advocacy for a cost collection system that encompasses all mobile healthcare provider types. Learn more at www.ambulancereports.org.

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About the American Ambulance Association (AAA)

The AAA was formed in 1979 in response to the need for improvements in emergency medical services and mobile healthcare. The American Ambulance Association represents hundreds of ambulance services across the United States who provide emergency and interfacility mobile healthcare. The Association serves as a voice and clearinghouse for ambulance services.

CMS Launches Outreach Effort to Ambulance Providers & Suppliers

As part of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA 2018), the Congress instructed CMS to develop a cost collection system to collect cost and revenue data related to the provision of ambulance services. Ambulance services are defined by federal law to include all levels of emergency and non-emergency services. 

CMS is in the first phase of this process. The Congress instructed the Agency to engage with stakeholders before specifying through notice and comment rulemaking the data collection system. By law, CMS is required to specify the final system by December 31, 2019. CMS must also identify the first group of providers and suppliers selected for the first representative sample by that date as well. It appears that the goal is to have the contractor develop a proposal before the 2019 rulemaking cycle which will begin next summer.

To engage with the stakeholders, CMS, through its contractor the RAND Corporation, is reaching out providers and suppliers to learn more about the costs and revenues associated with providing ambulance services.

During the American Ambulance Association’s annual meeting earlier this month, CMS through the RAND Corporation, convened a focus group where they selected several AAA members who were able to talk directly with the contractor. The discussion centered around characteristics of ambulance services that matter for determining costs. The group also talked about how data is currently captured at the state and local levels, as well as how data is tracked within ambulance services. There was also a lot of discussion about the importance of standardizing data elements and not relying upon different state or local definitions, which could confound the data and make it impossible to compare costs across states.

As we have reported previously, it is critically important that the data collected through this process is standardized and reflects the actual cost of providing ambulance services. It is important to make sure that the data is useable not only for supporting the ambulance add-ons after they next expire in 2023, but also to help implement broader reforms and innovative payment models.

CMS is now reaching out to others in the industry. If you receive an email or a phone call from RAND Corporation, please respond. 

If you have questions about, or would like assistance with regard to, this project, please contact Tristan North at tnorth@ambulance.org.

Chart of Accounts Review Started

Earlier this week, the American Ambulance Association kicked off the new season of the data collection webinar series with a free session – an overview of a draft chart of accounts for ambulance services. This chart is intended to help services meet the upcoming reporting requirements, while standardizing definitions across the industry to aid in consistent reporting.

With nearly five hundred registrants, the webinar was a tremendous success, and as a follow-up, the draft chart of accounts was sent to each registered person. Moving forward, the next step is to collect feedback from the wide variety of providers who were on the call (and those who watched the recording later). We’ll be collecting that feedback over the coming days, and hope to have a revised and refined product available later this year.

A huge THANK YOU to all those who participated on the webinar, and to the many of you who have already provided feedback. Sharing your help and expertise only improves this tool for the entire community, and we very much appreciate it!

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