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Rep. Sewell Leads Bipartisan Legislation to Strengthen Ambulance Services

November 1, 2019
Press Release
H.R. 4938 would make important reforms to ambulance services to help bring more certainty to providers nationwide

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell (AL-07), Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), Markwayne Mullin (OK-02), Devin Nunes (CA-22) and Peter Welch (VT-AL) introduced the Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act to strengthen ambulance service providers and help ensure they are able to continue delivering critical first responder and health care services in communities across the country.

“Ambulance services are a vital component of our local and national health care and emergency response systems, especially in rural and underserved areas where they are often the sole provider of emergency medical services in their communities,” Sewell said. “The Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act of 2019 will implement critical reforms to help ensure Alabamians have access to lifesaving emergency care, no matter where they live.”

“Emergency first responders are critical to the health and safety of our communities,” Blumenauer said. “Rather than continue to put a band-aid on this problem, we must find permanent solutions to our inadequate Medicare payments for ambulance services, especially for vulnerable communities and those in rural areas.”

“Rural ambulance services save lives and provide needed care in underserved areas every day,” Welch said.  “This bipartisan bill will ensure that patients and rural areas have access to critical ambulance services, and that these services receive fair, consistent reimbursement for their important work.  It’s time for Congress to  permanently fix this glitch and give ambulance services the certainty they need to continue serving all Americans.”

“Ambulance services are critically important to rural Americans who may live close to an hour away from the nearest emergency room,” Mullin said. “Providing this care literally means the difference between life and death for many people. As we continue to battle the closures of critical access hospitals across Oklahoma, ambulance services are more important now than ever before. We must ensure that rural Americans receive the care they need. I’m proud to join my colleagues in support of this bill which would enhance and increase resources for first responders in Oklahoma.”

Although ambulance providers provide critical emergency services to communities across the country, the Government Accountability Office has found that they are reimbursed below cost by Medicare, which has hampered the ability of ambulance service providers to hire new staff, update equipment, and provide life-saving around­ the-clock services in their communities, especially those in economically distressed areas. Without frequent add-on payments authorized by Congress, these providers must often operate at a loss.

Included in the legislation are provisions to permanently increase the rate at which ambulance providers are reimbursed by Medicaid, allow ambulance services that serve low population areas to continue to receive additional rural Medicare funding and eliminate burdensome, duplicative paperwork requirements.

"The Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention and Reform Act of 2019 would give organizations that provide vital emergency 9-1-1 and non-emergency ambulance services greater certainty as to the future of desperately-needed Medicare funding relief as identified by the Government Accountability Office. Most importantly, it would help ensure continued access by Medicare beneficiaries and all Americans in urban and, in particular, rural and extremely rural, areas to medical first response and mobile health care,” said American Ambulance Association President Aarron Reinert. “The American Ambulance Association greatly appreciates the leadership and hopeful outlook of Congresswoman Sewell and Congressman Nunes as well as Congressmen Welch, Blumenauer, and Mullin in addressing this critical issue." 

The Medicare Ambulance Access, Fraud Prevention, and Reform Act of 2019 is available here.

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