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Legislative Victory! Congress Passes Bill to Extend Medicare Reimbursement Relief for Ambulance Services and Create Nationwide Broadband Network

Feb 17, 2012

Today, the House and Senate passed the “Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012” (H.R. 3630), extending many of the Medicare "add-on" payments, tax reductions and unemployment benefit policies that were set to expire if Congress failed to act before March 1, 2012. Specific provisions related to EMS include:

·         Urban Ground Ambulance - Extends the 2% Medicare add-on for urban ground ambulance services through December 31, 2012

·         Rural Ground Ambulance - Extends the 3% Medicare add-on for rural ground ambulance services through December 31, 2012

·         Super Rural Ambulance - Extends the increase to the base rate for ambulance trips originating in qualified “super rural” areas as calculated by the Secretary (currently 22.6%) through December 31, 2012

·         Air Ambulance - Extends a policy that allows air ambulance services originating in certain rural areas to continue to receive a 50% add-on payment to their base rate

·         Ambulance Studies:

o   GAO - By October 24, 2012, GAO must update its report " Ambulance Providers: Costs and Expected Medicare Margins Vary Greatly" (GAO–07–383) to reflect current costs for ambulance providers

o   MedPAC - By June 15, 2013, MedPAC shall conduct a study of:

1)    the appropriateness of the add-on payments for ambulance providers under paragraphs (12)(A)8 and (13)(A) of section 1834(l) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395m(l)) and the treatment of air ambulance providers under section 146(b)(1) of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (Public Law 110–275);

  2)  the effect these add-on payments have on ambulance providers' Medicare margins; and

  3)  whether there is a need to reform the Medicare ambulance fee schedule and, if so, what should such reforms be, including whether the add-on payments should be included in the base rate.

Also included in this legislation was the allocation of 10 MHz of radio spectrum in the 700 MHz band (commonly referred to as the “D-Block”) to public safety for the purpose of building a nationwide broadband communications network. Specifically, the bill creates a First Responder Network Authority within the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and provides seven billion dollars along with a license to use the D-Block and adjacent public safety spectrum to build the network. It also provides funding for public safety research and development activities including deployment of Next Generation 9-1-1 services, which will complement the capabilities of the new broadband public safety communications network.

"Both of the EMS issues addressed in this legislation have been legislative priorities for NAEMT, and were two of the three legislative requests to Congress at last year’s EMS on the Hill Day. These legislative victories clearly indicate that our presence on Capitol Hill has a positive impact on our profession," noted NAEMT President Connie Meyer.

Having passed the House and Senate, H.R. 3630 now goes to President Obama who is expected to sign it into law.  Both of these issues have been legislative priorities for NAEMT, and were two of the three legislative requests to Congress at last year’s EMS on the Hill Day.  To register for this year’s EMS on the Hill Day, click here.