The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced a new payment model for emergency ambulance services that will permit Medicare patients to be transported to healthcare facilities other than hospital emergency departments.
The Emergency Triage, Treat and Transport (ET3) model was announced on February 14 with the objective of allowing Medicare Fee-for-Service beneficiaries to receive the most appropriate level of care, while simultaneously reducing out-of-pocket costs. Under the model, HHS will allow ambulance suppliers and providers to transport Medicare beneficiaries to areas besides the emergency room, such as a doctor’s office or urgent-care facility, or use telemedicine, with the goal of reducing unnecessary trips to the hospital.
The ET3 model will run for five years and is expected to start in early 2020. This model was introduced to create a new set of incentives for emergency transport and care while ensuring patients get convenient and appropriate treatment in the correct setting. One concern with the existing model is that the payment system only pays ambulance providers when they take beneficiaries to the hospital emergency department, which HHS argues may lead to unnecessary emergency room visits, or hospitalizations that may harm the patients.
The ET3 model will test two new payment models while still paying for emergency transport when a Medicare beneficiary is transported to a hospital emergency department or other destination covered under current regulations. The two new payment models are:
- payment for treatment in place with a qualified healthcare practitioner, either on-the-scene or connected using telehealth; and,
- payment for unscheduled, emergency transport of Medicare beneficiaries to alternative destinations, such as 24-hour care clinics.
The ET3 model will reward participating ambulance suppliers or providers by providing the opportunity to earn up to a 5% payment adjustment in later years of the model if they meet certain quality measures. The quality measurement strategy aims to avoid adding additional burdens to participants, while also seeking to minimize new reporting requirements. The model will be phased in with multiple application periods in order to maximize participation throughout the country. HHS anticipates it will start accepting applications from Medicare-enrolled ambulance suppliers and providers in Summer 2019.
The proposed ET3 model illustrates the willingness of HHS to develop and evaluate new cost-containment strategies while ensuring that Medicare patients receive the appropriate levels of care in the right settings.
The HHS press release announcing the program can be found here.
Belmont Law student Curtis Campbell contributed to this report.
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