Fiscal Cliff Deal to Extend Ambulance Bonuses, Cut Reimbursement for Dialysis Trips 10% in 2013
Late last night, Congress reached a deal to avoid the so-called “fiscal cliff” and delay the 2% Medicare sequestration cuts for two months.
The bill, if signed into law, would temporarily avoid the automatic 2% Medicare “sequestration” cuts to ambulance fee schedule rates that were scheduled to go into effect on January 1st. The fiscal cliff bill also extends the temporary 2% urban, 3% rural and 22.6% super-rural bonus payments for ground ambulance services through December 31, 2013. Â In addition, the legislation preserves some temporary relief for the air ambulance industry through June 30, 2013. Â But, Congress also voted to reduce reimbursement by 10% for BLS non-emergency ambulance services furnished to renal dialysis patients beginning on October 1, 2013.
Having passed the Senate and the House, the bill is expected to be signed into law shortly. Â We have excerpted the key sections of the 154-page bill, and you can click HERE to read those provisions.
The bill also directs HHS to conduct two studies on ambulance costs and issue recommendations to Congress. Â Those studies are:
A study analyzing cost reports for ambulance services furnished by hospitals
A study of the feasibility of obtaining cost data from ambulance providers on a periodic basis about the “appropriateness” of the Medicare bonus payments
The one-year extension of the bonus payments is good news for the industry, especially since there is only a very small increase to the ambulance inflation factor for 2013. Â The 2013 Ambulance Inflation Factor is 0.8%. But, the 10% cut for BLS non-emergency dialysis trips could be devastating for ambulance providers that transport beneficiaries with ESRD.