News & Updates

In cooperation with the American Ambulance Association, we and others have created a running compilation of local and national news stories relating to EMS delivery. To date, over 1,000 news stories have been chronicled, with 59% highlighting the EMS staffing crisis, and 33% highlighting the funding crisis.

Click below for an up to date list of these news stories, with links to the source documents.

EMS Media Log Through 9-18-23 Read Only.xlsx

  • 28 Sep 2022 6:19 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    An idea whose time has come? EMS and local communities should investigate transformative models to reduce psych holds in local EDs – something hospitals and EMS agencies often say contribute to EMS offload delays.


    Mental Health Crisis Leads Hospitals to Create a New Type of ER

    Recliners and games in “Empath units” are helping move patients with psychiatric ailments out of emergency rooms.

    ByJohn Tozzi

    September 26, 2022

    With mental health treatment in short supply, Americans experiencing a psychiatric crisis frequently land in a hospital emergency room—brought in by the police or loved ones—and usually stay there until they can be safely discharged or transferred. That means patients can spend hours or even days stuck on a gurney until a spot opens in a psych ward, the only other setting deemed appropriate.

    The approach rarely offers any real treatment for mental health conditions, and it ties up scarce ER beds. That’s spurred some hospitals to try a new idea: mental health crisis units designed to treat people quickly in a more serene setting, so they can stabilize patients and send them home. “There’s no other emergency in the ER where the default treatment is to find them a bed,” says Scott Zeller, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California in Riverside. Zeller developed the model, called Empath (emergency psychiatric assessment, treatment, and healing), to improve care while avoiding unnecessary time in the emergency department.

    The idea is an open room with recliners, soft lighting, TVs, and card tables. At the two dozen or so Empath centers in the US today—with dozens more on the way—patients who are medically stable are seen by a psychiatric specialist within an hour and quickly start any needed medication. By speeding up treatment and observing the response, doctors can send more patients home with recommendations for follow-up care, rather than automatically placing them in a psychiatric hospital.

    Since the 1950s, most US psychiatric beds have vanished under the policy of “deinstitutionalization” that followed budget cuts and exposés of inhumane conditions in mental hospitals. The number of public psychiatric beds per 100,000 people dropped from 340 in 1955 to 12 in 2016, according to the nonprofit Treatment Advocacy Center. After the institutions emptied out, hospitals and jails became the de facto replacements.

    Covid-19, which strained hospital capacity while exacerbating Americans’ mental distress, amplified the problem. A study of one pediatric facility found the average length of psychiatric boarding more than doubled, to 4.6 days, during the first year of the pandemic. A survey by the Massachusetts College of Emergency Physicians showed that at the average hospital, almost 30% of ER beds are occupied by people experiencing a behavioral health emergency, with some patients remaining there for weeks.

    Zeller developed what became the Empath model when he was medical director of a psychiatric emergency center in Alameda County, Calif., which served as a regional destination for psychiatric transfers from local emergency departments. Most patients were brought in involuntarily by the police, and the county aimed to move those who were medically stable to the center as quickly as possible. The approach, Zeller found in a 2014 study, meant patients spent less than two hours in the ER waiting for treatment, and only 1 in 4 needed to be admitted for inpatient psychiatric care.

    Part of the solution was getting people out of a setting that can aggravate mental distress. “That environment itself, within the ED, can be very frightening,” Zeller says. “It’s claustrophobic, there are lights and noises and scary equipment and uniformed personnel running all around, and they’re not allowed to move.”

    The setting for the Alameda study was essentially a big waiting room. The hospital bought recliners to make patients more comfortable, organized group activities such as board games, and added stations where patients could get water, snacks, and linens so they wouldn’t have to ask a nurse for basics. “That allows the treatment to work a little better, if people aren’t feeling adversarial, but rather engaged,” Zeller says.

    As the Alameda study got more attention, other hospitals sought to replicate the approach. Zeller and his colleagues started talking about redesigning the concept. “If we were going to be able to build something from scratch, what would we do?” he asked. Hospitals envisioning new facilities could make them feel less clinical and more inviting than the waiting room, with more space, higher ceilings, natural light, and fresh air.

    M Health Fairview Southdale Hospital in suburban Minneapolis opened an Empath unit in March 2021. Lewis Zeidner, director of clinical triage and transition services, says it’s more like a living room than an ER, though it’s adjacent to the emergency department. The unit has 15 recliners and a staff of psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and therapists—one clinician for every two patients—around the clock. Hospital admissions for mental health crises have fallen to 14% from 40%, and there’s been a dramatic drop in repeat visits.

    The unit sees 250 patients a month with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and substance use problems. “They’re everyday people who get to a place in their life where things feel more out of control,” Zeidner says. The setting opens a window to evaluate patients and determine whether they should be admitted for inpatient treatment. Before the Empath option, that was usually the only destination if a clinician was worried about a patient’s security. “We want to keep people safe,” he says. “You can’t reverse suicide.”

    After University of Iowa Health Care opened an Empath unit in its main hospital building in Iowa City, the number of suicidal patients admitted and the length of time they waited in the ER dropped dramatically, researchers found. “Once we had it, we were like, ‘Oh my gosh, how did we do this without it?’” says Heidi Robinson, director of behavioral health services for the hospital’s nursing department.

    A separate Iowa study looked at the economics of the approach and found that revenue in the emergency department increased as fewer patients left before being treated. But the boost wasn’t enough to cover the cost of the Empath unit—$1.4 million to open and $2.6 million in annual operating expenses. Zeidner says hospitals tend to lose money on inpatient mental health beds anyway, and the advantages to patients of avoiding those admissions are clear. With the success of its suburban Southdale Empath unit, M Health Fairview is considering another at its downtown Minneapolis location, with room to treat adolescents as well as adults. “There’s a growing understanding,” Zeidner says, “that this crisis is not going away.”

  • 23 Sep 2022 7:05 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    The latest legal challenge. 

    Perhaps one of the reasons that the Congressionally mandated Committee on Ground Ambulance Balance Billing has not been seeded yet is that the feds are waiting for the various legal challenges to play out to help guide the recommendations from that committee?


    Texas Medical Association files another surprise billing lawsuit


    September 22, 2022

    The Texas Medical Association filed its second lawsuit against the federal government’s surprise billing arbitration process Thursday.

    An August rule on the independent dispute resolution for surprise medical bills still unlawfully favors insurers over providers, the medical association alleges in its complaint to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

    “We are, once again, asking for the law to be followed as Congress intended, and for the challenged provisions to be invalidated. There should be a level playing field for physicians and healthcare providers in payment disputes after they’ve cared for patients,” Texas Medical Association President Dr. Gary Floyd said in a news release.

    The lawsuit comes just after the American Medical Association and American Hospital Association dropped their legal challenges to the policy. The AMA and AHA support the Texas lawsuit. “We intend to make our voice heard in this case by filing an amicus brief that explains how the final rule departs from congressional intent just as the September 2021 interim final rule did,” the organizations said in a joint statement Thursday.

    The Texas Medical Association first sued regulators over the arbitration policy last year. The interim regulation required arbiters to pick the offer for surprise bill payment that came closest to the insurer's median contracted in-network rate. Judge Jeremy Kernodle of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas ruled in favor of the Texas physicians in February.

    The federal government appealed the decision in April, but subsequently finalized a rule requiring arbiters to consider both an insurer’s median contracted in-network rate and additional information when deciding the payment for a surprise bill.

    The Texas Medical Association contends the final rule does not go far enough to protect provider payments. The methodology for calculating insurers’ median in-network rates is “deflated” compared to insurers’ actual average contracted rates, the group argued in the news release.

    These provisions of the final rule are manifestly unlawful and will unfairly skew [independent dispute resolution] results in insurers’ favor, granting them a windfall they were unable to obtain in the legislative process. At the same time, they will undermine healthcare providers’ ability to obtain adequate reimbursement for their services, to the detriment of both providers and the patients they serve,” the complaint says.

  • 20 Sep 2022 10:04 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    Very, very well-done article in the Des Moines Register.

    Special thanks to West Des Moines EMS Deputy Chief and NAEMT Board Member David Edgar for coordinating this important series.

    The on-line article is behind a subscription wall, but we’ve placed a PDF version of the 2 part series, and the accompanying editorial here.

    De Moines EMS Series.pdf

    Notable quotes:

    “Many people regard EMS as an essential service, but the system in Iowa and across the U.S. struggles to remain financially viable and to fulfill its mission of quickly delivering care to the sick or injured, local and national emergency officials say.”

    “According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' data from 2021, the median pay for a full-time emergency medical technician was $17.76 an hour, even though the job requires training that, for a full-fledged paramedic, typically costs $10,000 to $20,000.”

    "The fix isn’t just money, but the fixes require money,"

  • 15 Sep 2022 5:47 PM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    This is good news for some systems using the PHE waivers for their EMS delivery…  Some will expire when the PHE ends, some carry on until the end of the calendar year in which the PHE ends.  There is a link and list of these waivers at the end of this note.  

    Many of the telehealth waivers will expire 151 days after the PHE ends, unless Congress moves to make them permanent.


    HHS expected to renew COVID-19 PHE for 11th time

    Molly Gamble

    Sept. 14, 2022

    HHS is set to extend the COVID-19 public health emergency by its standing deadline of Oct. 13.

    HHS last renewed the PHE July 15 for another increment of 90 days with a pledge to provide states with 60 days' notice if it decided to terminate the declaration or allow it to expire. Aug. 14, the date in which states would have 60 days' notice, came and went without updates or notifications from the agency, suggesting the declaration will extend.

    If renewed on the deadline of Oct. 13, the next deadline would be Jan. 11, 2023.

    This would make for the 11th renewal of the PHE since its declaration in January 2020 by former and current HHS secretaries Alex Azar and Xavier Becerra, respectively. The renewal would occur as HHS plans to shift costs of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments to the commercial market, a process beginning this fall that is expected to take months. 

    Hospitals have advocated for the PHE's extension. In July, the Federation of American Hospitals, which represents investor-owned or managed hospitals, urged HHS "in the strongest terms possible" to renew PHE through 2023.

    "While we all long for the day when we can declare the emergency over, that day is not yet in sight for America's hospitals," FAH CEO Chip Kahn wrote in his July 27 letter to Mr. Becerra. Mr. Kahn urged HHS to not only renew the PHE for another 90 days by its current deadline of Oct. 13, but to "send a clear signal that an additional 90-day extension may be necessary."

    For an overview of the flexibilities tied to the PHE and what occurs when the declaration ends, check out a comprehensive brief from Kaiser Family Foundation here.


    Payment for Vaccine Administration:

    “CMS will continue to pay approximately $40 per dose for administering COVID-19 vaccines in outpatient settings for Medicare beneficiaries through the end of the calendar year that the COVID-19 PHE ends.”

    Add-On Payment for Vaccines in the Home:

    “We’ll continue to pay a total payment of approximately $75 per dose to administer COVID-19 vaccines in the home for certain Medicare patients through the end of the calendar year that the COVID-19 PHE ends.”

    Ambulance Treat in Place:

    “This waiver will end with the end of the PHE.”

    CMS Hospital Without Walls (Transport to Alternate Destinations):

    During the Public Health Emergency (PHE) for the COVID-19 pandemic, we have temporarily expanded the list of allowable destinations. {Editor’s Note: Although not expressly stated in the waiver, this waiver will likely end with the PHE.}

  • 15 Sep 2022 9:45 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    Another example of how existing services models are not sustainable with skyrocketing costs of service delivery and historically low reimbursement rates, regardless of who the provider is, public, private, hospital-based, etc.

    Community leaders need to be educated on the true cost of EMS service delivery, the cost differences based on service levels and provider types (public, private, 3rd service governmental, hospital-based, etc.), decide what service level the community really wants based on the levels of investment needed for each level, and begin to fund EMS delivery the way other essential public services are funded.

    Click here to view a recent webinar hosted by the Academy of International Mobile Healthcare Integration discussing costs and funding models based on service delivery levels.

    This may be the latest, but it WILL NOT be the last!


    AMR to discontinue service in Youngstown

    by: Jennifer Rodriguez, Megan Lee

    Sep 14, 2022

    YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – American Medical Response (AMR) sent a letter to the City of Youngstown Wednesday notifying the city that it will be discontinuing service in Youngstown.

    According to the letter sent to the city, AMR will not renew its agreement with the city, and the current agreement will end on December 31, at 11:59 p.m.

    The letter states AMR has been serving the city for over 30 years without any cost to the city or taxpayers. It also states that the company is not being reimbursed for medical calls.

    “We have discussed throughout the last three years, the subsidy is needed to overcome inadequate Medicaid reimbursement which makes up a significant portion of our services and which is below our costs,” it stated.

    It goes on to state, “The current Ohio Medicaid base rate for a basic life support emergency transport is $120 and has not been re-based by the state in years. When we treat and transport Medicaid patients, we are reimbursed far below the cost of providing service — approximately 42% of our cost. More than half our transports, or 54%, are Medicaid recipients.”

    In April, Youngstown City Council voted down a $625,000 subsidy to “ensure continued EMS and ambulance services” for the city. All council members voted no except Third Ward Councilwoman Samantha Turner.

    At that time, Fourth Ward Councilman Mike Ray said the door was not completely shut, but there were some details that needed to be worked out first.

    We don’t know if that’s still the amount to keep AMR in place. When asked if the city should reconsider the vote, Turner said, “We should. If they’ll take it.”

    Today, we asked several council members their thoughts on the notice and AMR stating they need more money.

    “We asked admin months and months ago to go out for an RFP to see who else may be interested with that much money on the line, it’s only responsible of us to do that but the admin hasn’t done it, surprise, surprise,” said Fifth Ward Councilwoman Lauren McNally. “They are the largest EMS service in the country and I feel they are bullying us into a money grab since we have ARP money right now.”

    “They are the largest ambulance company in the country, I feel like they are extorting us because we have some extra money now. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. My ultimate feeling is, have their services improved, what are they willing to give in return? Are they adding trucks, are we going to get better response terms, are the citizens of Youngstown going to be served any better because of the extra money? If not, what’s the point of payment? We can’t get or continue to get mediocre or bad service,” Oliver said.

    “What we see in front of us doesn’t make sense to pass at this point, so we definitely wanna continue the conversation,” Ray said.

    In January, AMR Regional Director Ed Powers used a computer presentation to explain the problems, saying while an average ambulance run costs about $300, Medicaid only reimburses the company $130 – a gap of 48%.

    “Medicaid currently covers about 48% of our expense. We need another 52% just to break even,” Powers said.

    “During that three years, we’ve explored all kinds of different models, trying to create a sustainable model. I mean, we knew five years ago that the model wasn’t sustainable,” he said.

    Youngstown Law Director Jeff Limbian said the letter from AMR was not unexpected.

    “The City of Youngstown, under Mayor Brown’s direction, has been to negotiate with AMR for many months now. Some members of City Council would like a more expansive analysis to see if there are other ambulance companies available to come into the city,” he said. “There is currently a request for proposals to determine if there are other interested ambulance entities. If that process does not produce an additional option, we anticipate that discussions will continue with AMR.”

    According to Powers, AMR gave the city a 115-day notice to find new services. And if services aren’t found…

    “Oh, it would mean a holy disaster to be perfectly blunt. We don’t anticipate that’ll happen. Mayor Brown is going to move heaven and earth to make sure that the citizens are protected. There will be ambulance service one way or another,” Limbian said.

    Powers says the company hopes that the administration in Youngstown sits down with AMR to discuss any future plans or negotiations because he says AMR has invested a lot in the City of Youngstown.

    “We actually hire residents off the street that are non-medical providers. We train them to be a medical provider and then give them jobs to work on our ambulances, and then they’re paying taxes to the City of Youngstown. So they’re… everybody here is invested in the City of Youngstown and nobody wants to leave,” Powers said.

    Limbian hopes AMR will want to go back to the drawing board if the administration is unsuccessful in finding an alternative company.

    “You know, it was a hard lesson for us to learn, to come to that realization, but now that we do understand that there just isn’t the money for them to make in the town the size of Youngstown with the volume that we have. So their requests are reasonable,” Limbian said.

    The Youngstown Fire Department recently stopped using its fire trucks for emergency medical calls after it was determined what they were doing was illegal. The fire department needs what is known as “standing orders” from a hospital and is working to get them.

    The Youngstown Professional Fire Fighters IAFF Local 312 responded to AMR’s announcement calling on city leaders to talk about the future of pre-hospital care for the city:

    “Now is the time to address the inequalities that have plagued Youngstown for years. We are witnessing firsthand the ramifications of putting profits over patients. The citizens of Youngstown deserve access to basic infrastructure like public safety, which includes a sustainable, professional EMS system. The Youngstown Professional Fire Fighters urge the city leaders to finally recognize our abilities to help our citizens and negotiate the implementation of a first-class pre-hospital system.”

  • 13 Sep 2022 8:12 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    This action, while not unique as many providers have left certain communities, this is an interesting decision in a high-profile community to cease a certain service within the community. 

    The wage pressures due to regulatory issues in California (fast food worker wages up to $22/hr.), the overall worker shortage, and the desire to seek generally higher reimbursement for emergency services, may all be factors that led to this action. 

    This might be a bellwether for other providers dropping select services in some communities.  For example, like many physicians have, ambulance providers could elect to not provide non-emergency transfer services to Medicaid patients, while continuing to provide services for other commercially insured patients.

    Imaging what would happen to a region’s healthcare system if all ambulance providers simply took the stand on low Medicaid reimbursement and said ‘no’ to any Medicaid, non-emergency transfer?  Or told the hospitals if they want the Medicaid patient transported, the hospital will have to pay, perhaps in advance, for the transfer?

    If no provider was willing to provide non-emergency services for say Medicaid patients, does then the 911 safety net provider become the ONLY option?  Meaning, publicly funded agencies may then HAVE to provide the service if there is no one else?  What would that do to the availability of the 911 safety net system?

    That might align incentives in states with ridiculously low ambulance Medicaid rates that have not changed in decades, to increase the ambulance rates.  Imaging the hospital association joining the state’s ambulance association to advocate for higher ambulance reimbursement rates.

    Perhaps this same action could be taken for patients insured by commercial insurers who have a pattern on choosing to make surprise payments (payment less than perhaps a state required % of UCR, or % of Medicare), placing their members at risk for a high balance due to the surprise payment?  “I’m sorry, but ‘XXXX’ insurer is on our blacklist for surprise underpayments, and we do not want to put the patient at risk for a large out of pocket expense, so we are NOT going to provide the scheduled transfer”.  That, too, might send a very strong message to ‘XXXX’ insurance?

    To some, it may seem harsh to deny non-emergency medical services to patients based on their who their payer is but hasn’t the U.S. healthcare system been doing that forever!?

    AMR Letter Exiting NEM LA.jpg

  • 12 Sep 2022 7:02 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    Despite the intimation in the headline, the news report provides commentary on a federal report that reveals a small number of providers are likely responsible for the majority of potentially fraudulent telehealth billing, not unlike other aspects of the healthcare delivery system.

    Reports like these will be crucial as MedPAC, HHS, Congress and states consider making payment flexibilities enacted as part of the PHE, permanent. The availability of telehealth has helped EMS provide enhanced services to prevent avoidable ER visits.


    'Guardrails' needed? Telehealth fraud cost Medicare $128M in first year of COVID pandemic, feds say

    Ken Alltucker


    September 11, 2022

    Key Points:

    • During the first year of the COVID pandemic, 1,714 doctors and health providers billed Medicare nearly $128 million in “high risk” claims, according to a new report from federal investigators.
    • Telehealth industry officials caution against creating “inappropriate barriers” to care, saying the report shows only a small number of providers engage in potential fraud or wasteful billing.
    • More than 28 million seniors and disabled residents on Medicare accessed telehealth in the first year of the pandemic, an 88-fold increase from the previous year.

    The federal government eased telehealth requirements at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic so more Americans could get remote care with fewer obstacles.

    A report by government investigators last week found that more-permissive remote care has come at a price. During the first year of the pandemic, 1,714 doctors and health providers billed Medicare nearly $128 million in “high risk” claims, according to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General.

    Investigators said less than 1% of the 742,000 Medicare-certified doctors and other providers of telehealth services submitted roughly a half million problematic claims. Yet the billings are concerning enough that government investigators urged the Biden administration to tighten oversight to ensure millions of Americans can access remote care while safeguarding taxpayer dollars.

    “We're really looking at practices that indicate a high probability of fraud, waste or abuse,” said Andrew VanLandingham, the HHS inspector general’s senior counselor for policy. 

    The report comes less than two months after the inspector general's office alerted medical professionals about rising telemedicine fraud by companies that often pay kickbacks to doctors, labs and others to generate orders paid by Medicare and other federal health programs. Also in July, the Justice Department announced 36 people were charged for over $1 billion in health fraud involving telemedicine providers. Some were part of a telemarketing network that lured thousands of elderly or disabled patients to get unnecessary genetic testing or orders for medical equipment.

    Medicare fraud, telehealth access and 'inappropriate barriers'

    The latest inspector general report doesn’t address whether doctors or other providers intended to commit fraud, VanLandingham said, but the analysis suggests a high likelihood of billing abuses.

    The report informs the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Congress and other stakeholders of potential ways a small percentage of providers are exploiting Medicare and suggests strategies to tighten oversight during the third year of the pandemic. 

    The report also comes as Congress must decide whether to permanently extend pandemic-era telehealth rules that accelerated the use of remote care.

    Telehealth industry officials say the report shows only a small number of health providers engage in potential fraud or wasteful billing. The officials also say decision-makers must evaluate the importance of convenient access for millions of Americans who get appropriate care.

    “We want to make sure that in addressing concerns about fraud – as minute as that fraud might be – you're not erecting really harsh and inappropriate barriers,” said Kyle Zebley, the American Telemedicine Association’s senior vice president of public policy.

    Before 2020, Medicare largely restricted telehealth to people who accessed medical care via video and audio connections set up in rural clinics. Amid the pandemic, Medicare allowed recipients in cities and suburbs to get care remotely, often from their home, via a phone call or a video chat. Medicare also more than doubled the types of services eligible for reimbursement

    Medicare wanted to make it easier for people to get care without the risk of COVID-19 exposure during a visit to a clinic or hospital.

    During the first year of the pandemic, more than 28 million seniors and disabled residents on Medicare accessed telehealth, an 88-fold increase from the previous year. Another inspector general report, also released last week, showed the expanded telehealth services reached more people in underserved populations and lower-income families eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.

    The report did not identify doctors or hospitals that submitted claims investigators considered likely fraud, waste or abuse. However, examples included unnamed doctors who charged extra fees, billed the highest and most expensive level of care every time and submitted bills every day of the year.

    Under Medicare’s fee-for-service billing, doctors are paid for the number of tests, procedures or other services they perform. And when patients require a higher level of care, reimbursement is more lucrative.

    The report broadly recommended Medicare review the more than 1,700 doctors and providers suspected of abusive billing practices. Medicare also should crack down on a billing practice that allows lower-level providers such as physician assistants or nurse practitioners to bill Medicare using the name of a supervising physician. Billing using a supervisor's name existed before the pandemic, but VanLandingham said investigators are concerned such practices in telehealth could result in more subpar care.

    "For oversight purposes, it's really critical for us to understand who was seeing that patient and where the physician was because that's how we can really ensure that that beneficiary is getting good quality care," VanLandingham said.

    A 'facility fee,' double billing and other prolific charges

    The report found hundreds of doctors inappropriately charged a "facility fee" while also billing for a telehealth visit.

    Medicare allows a hospital or clinic to charge a facility fee when they host a patient who gets care from a remote provider – for example, a rural hospital that lacks a roster of specialists might connect a patient with a remote specialist located in a big city. However, a doctor who provides remote care isn't allowed to also collect a facility fee. Nearly two dozen doctors were prolific double billers, collecting a facility fee and a telehealth visit more than 1,000 times over the year, the report said.

    Fiscal watchdog groups said the inspector general report points out potential problems Congress and Medicare must fix before extending the pandemic telehealth policies beyond the end of the public health emergency, now set to expire in mid-October, though it will likely be extended to mid-January. Congress passed a bill to stretch the relaxed telehealth policies five months beyond the public health emergency. Legislation pending in the Senate would continue the policies through 2024.

    Josh Gordon is director of Health Policy for the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonpartisan research group. His group released a report in April calling for safeguards to avoid unnecessary use, incentives, fraud and abuse. 

    "If you set things up with the right incentives and the right guardrails from the beginning, it's a lot easier to get a handle on these programs over the long term," Gordon said. "If you wait, have it become very popular, very expensive, then it becomes much harder to go back and install guardrails or change the incentives."

  • 31 Aug 2022 1:06 PM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    AIMHI benchmarking reports perform a fundamental service to EMS leaders and local policy makers by demonstrating the clinical, operational, and economic outcomes of High Performance/High Value EMS (HPHVEMS), systems. These reports also demonstrate the innovation and system design changes that occur in these systems to meet the current challenges in EMS delivery and sustainability.

    AIMHI’s goal in releasing this information is to ensure the progress and growth of the HPHVEMS model and expand the reputation and efficiency of EMS nationally and internationally.

    AIMHI will be releasing quarterly reports on the member EMS systems that will highlight the demographic, clinical, operational, and financial outcome statistics of the nation’s highest performing EMS systems.  The data contained in these reports will demonstrates excellent clinical outcomes and proficiency, outstanding operational effectiveness, and exceptional financial efficiency.

    This is the report you want to read if you want to know how your urban or suburban EMS system compares to these systems on key measures such as response times, cardiac arrest survival, cost per unit hour, cost and revenue per transport, and reliance on local tax subsidy.

    Data contained in this quarter’s report includes:

    • System delivery changes that have occurred in member service areas
    • Medical First Responder (MFR) utilization
    • Light and siren use by member agencies
    • Accreditations by agency
    • Service area information (population, size, response and transport volume)
    • Response time goals and performance

    Additional benchmarking reports will be released quarterly, to keep the information current, relevant and digestible.

    Click here to download the Quarter 1 Benchmark Report

  • 30 Aug 2022 8:09 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    This is important information for all ambulance providers participating in GEMT programs.

    Very specific communication by CMS and the CMCS reminding states that GEMT providers should only include costs directly related to GROUND EMERGENCY MEDICAL TRANSPORT services in their cost reports (i.e.: ‘Medicaid covered services’), and NOT costs that unrelated to covered services (E.g.: costs related to medical first response).

    Here's the CMS Memo:

    CMS Memo on Cost Allocation for GEMT - 8-17-22.pdf

    This is stated in this part of the attached memo:

    “Costs such as fire and rescue personnel and equipment are generally not directly or indirectly related to Medicaid covered services. As such, cost identification methodologies that inappropriately allocate costs associated with fire and rescue personnel and equipment to the Medicaid program potentially would be unallowable under the federal cost allocation requirements. For example, if state or local law requires that both a fire truck and an ambulance be dispatched to emergency scenes to transport a potential patient, even though the ambulance will be the only vehicle that participates in the transport of the Medicaid beneficiaries to a facility for treatment, only costs incurred in the provision of a Medicaid-covered service may be allocated to Medicaid.

  • 30 Aug 2022 8:03 AM | Matt Zavadsky (Administrator)

    System changes like these are happening in many communities across the country.  

    Transformative, patient-centric EMS systems are working with their medical directors and the community to analyze their patient outcome data and using evidence-based emergency medical dispatch systems to determine which types of calls truly need an immediate response, and which can receive a delayed response. 

    This ‘Right Call/Right Resource’ helps preserve life-saving resources for the EMS responses they are needed and makes responses safer for the EMS personnel, and the public.

    Among the more notable innovations, Mecklenburg County (NC) EMS (MEDIC) implemented a change last fall, extending the response time goal for low-acuity 911 calls to 30 minutes.  And, in March 2022, Colorado Springs, started a new program to not even dispatch fire engines or ambulances to low-acuity 911 calls anymore, they are sending EMTs in “medically outfitted SUVs” instead.


    Milwaukee private ambulance response times; new policy

    The city doubled the amount of time allowed for private ambulances to respond to lower acuity calls. The old policy allowed 30 minutes to respond. It’s now a full hour.

    By Cassidy Williams

    August 28, 2022

    MILWAUKEE - If you need an ambulance in the city of Milwaukee, you could wait up to an hour. FOX6 News discovered a new policy that doubles the time allowed for private ambulances to respond to less serious calls.

    FOX6 News first started asking questions when viewer Mike Reed reached out about his experience. On June 13, Reed called 911 for a friend who was going in and out of consciousness. FOX6 News filed a public request for the audio of that call. In it, you can hear Reed telling the dispatcher, "I just got here. The guy is on the floor, screaming. He lives by himself."

    Reed says he was transferred to different agencies multiple times and had to wait on hold. In the end, he waited more than a half-hour for an ambulance to arrive.

    "I could have probably put him on a coaster wagon and walked him to the hospital faster than the ambulance got there," said Reed.

    While Reed waited, he dialed 911 and asked for a supervisor. FOX6 News requested the audio of that phone call, too.

    You hear Reed tell the dispatcher, "This is just way over the top," to which she replies, "I'm sorry that you were transferred back and forth. Currently, yes. You're right. There are some flaws in the system."

    FOX6 News asked Milwaukee Fire Department Assistant Chief Joshua Parish if he believed there were any flaws in the system.  Parish responded, "I would say a better way to categorize that is that it's a complex system."

    How the 911 system works

    Parish describes the system like this: When you dial 911, a dispatcher first makes sure your call went to the right place. That could involve some transfers, as cell towers do not always send calls to the correct agency.

    Once the call is in the right place, the dispatcher starts asking questions. How the caller answers determines how the call is categorized and what happens next.

    "We have over a thousand different call types," said Parish.

    If a medical call is considered non-life-threatening, it’s called a "lower acuity" call. The Milwaukee Fire Department will then dispatch a private ambulance that responds without lights and sirens for safety reasons. It means they are dealing with the same things on the road as everyone else.

    Bell Ambulance Director of Operations Chris Anderson took FOX6 News on a ride and explained some of the things that can slow them down.

    "Well, trains are a big one. Draw bridges downtown," said Anderson.

    Bell Ambulance is Milwaukee’s largest ambulance provider, although, these days, there isn’t much competition.

    "The city of Milwaukee is 100 square miles, and we have, currently, just two ambulance companies covering that very large area of the city," said Parish.

    Anderson says Bell is, on average, responding to twice as many calls per day compared to just a few years ago when there were four ambulance providers.

    They are doing double the work with the same number of EMTs.

    "We've pretty well maintained that number," said Anderson. "We've been having a hard time expanding that number."

    Because of these challenges, the city made a change. On June 7, a new policy went into effect.

    The city doubled the amount of time allowed for private ambulances to respond to lower acuity calls. The old policy allowed 30 minutes to respond. It’s now a full hour.

    "I'm sure it's quite frustrating being the person waiting for the ambulance, but we have to do what we can," said Anderson. "We have to use the resources that we can in a system that keeps getting busier. We have to make changes."

    Anderson says during the first two months of the policy, Bell responded to 2,600 lower acuity calls. The average response time was 16 minutes 33 seconds, but Bell did have to use the full hour on three occasions.

    "Our goal is to treat those calls the same as every other call, which generally means 15 minutes or less," Anderson said.

    Mike Reed's call

    So what happened with Reed’s call?

    The Milwaukee Fire Department dispatched a Curtis Ambulance, the city’s other ambulance provider.

    MFD says Reed’s call was considered lower acuity, so his half-hour wait time was within the 60 minutes allowed.

    Curtis did not respond to FOX6’s request for an interview, but we do know it was a busy day for first responders. Around the same time Reed was calling, two adults and a child fell into a drainage ditch after heavy rain.

    "It's a very large city, and the things that happen in different parts of the city can affect different parts of the city," said Parish.

    Reed thinks something needs to change.

    "I just don’t want to see anyone else have to go through something like that," Reed said.

    Anderson says Bell has been working closely with the Milwaukee Fire Department on solutions.

    "It's been really collaborative, and it's been really great to see. I really enjoy working with those guys," said Anderson.

    Anderson says things are improving, but the city simply needs more EMTs.

    "I think we are in a good place. I think we could get to great," said Anderson.

    Bell has hired a full-time trainer. September will be the first time they offer two concurrent EMT training classes.

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