This afternoon in Barre, Representative Peter Welch announced bipartisan legislation to improve Medicare reimbursements for ambulance services providers. Welch was joined at the press conference by Jim Finger, President of the Vermont Ambulance Association, Barre Mayor Tom Lauzon, and Joe Aldsworth, Deputy Chief of the Barre Fire Department.
Currently, ambulance service providers around the country, especially in rural areas like Vermont, face unnecessary financial uncertainty due to the failure of Congress to annually extend, in a timely fashion, a key Medicare reimbursement program. Welch's bipartisan legislation will make permanent in the Medicare fee schedule the special payment for services performed by ambulance providers in rural areas.
The Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act (H.R. 5460) was co-authored by Rep. Welch, Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR), Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA) and Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA).
"Every day in Vermont and around the country, ambulances are dispatched to assist individuals in distress," said Welch. "Ambulance operators are often the first at the scene of serious injury or illness. Their services are a lifeline for patients, particularly seniors, in rural areas where a hospital emergency room is often many miles away. It is essential that these health care providers receive fair and predictable reimbursements from Medicare. Our legislation will do just that."
"Medicare patients account for just over 50 percent of patients served by ambulance services in Vermont," said Jim Finger. "Uncertainty in Medicare reimbursement has been challenging for ambulance providers across the state and jeopardizes their ability to continue serving Vermonters. We appreciate Congressman Welch's recognition of this problem and his leadership in providing bipartisan legislation to address it."
Specifically, H.R. 5460 would:
make permanent a special payment for rural ambulance services providers;
establish a prior authorization process to weed out fraudulent charges, and
establish a data collection system for ambulance providers to determine the appropriate payment rate.
Rep. Welch is a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee which has jurisdiction over federal health care policy. His bill was referred to his committee as well as the House Ways and Means Committee.