Understanding Ambulance Transport Coverage Scenarios
Ambulance transportation involves various destination scenarios where beneficiary is transported from beneficiary home, an accident scene, or any other point of origin to nearest hospital, critical access hospital (CAH), or skilled nursing facility (SNF). Various destinations and Medicare & private insurance coverages makes it difficult to understand these ambulance transport coverage scenarios. In this article, we discussed separately payable ambulance transport under Medicare part B versus patient transportation that is covered under a packaged institutional service.
Medicare Part B Coverage
Transportation of a beneficiary from his or her home, an accident scene, or any other point of origin is covered under Part B as an ambulance service only to the nearest hospital, critical access hospital (CAH), or skilled nursing facility (SNF) that is capable of furnishing the required level and type of care for the beneficiary’s illness or injury and only if medical necessity and other program coverage criteria are met. An ambulance transport from a SNF to the nearest supplier of medically necessary services not available at the SNF where the beneficiary is a resident and not in a covered Part A stay, including the return trip, is covered under Part B provided that the ambulance transportation was medically reasonable and necessary and all other coverage requirements are met.
Medicare-covered ambulance services are paid either as separately billed services, in which case the entity furnishing the ambulance service bills Part B of the program, or as a packaged service, in which case the entity furnishing the ambulance service must seek payment from the provider who is responsible for the beneficiary’s care. If either the origin or the destination of the ambulance transport is the beneficiary’s home, then the ambulance transport is paid separately by Medicare Part B, and the entity that furnishes the ambulance transport may bill its A/B MAC (A) or (B) directly. If both the origin and destination of the ambulance transport are providers, e.g., a hospital, critical access hospital (CAH), skilled nursing facility (SNF), then responsibility for payment for the ambulance transport is determined in accordance with the following sequential criteria. These criteria must be applied in sequence as a flow chart and not independently of one another.
- Provider Numbers: If the Medicare-assigned provider numbers of the two providers are different, then the ambulance service is separately billable to the program. If the provider number of both providers is the same, then consider criterion 2, “campus”.
- Campus: Following criterion 1, if the campuses of the two providers (sharing the same provider numbers) are the same, then the transport is not separately billable to the program. In this case the provider is responsible for payment. If the campuses of the two providers are different, then consider criterion 3, “patient status.” “Campus” means the physical area immediately adjacent to the provider’s main buildings, other areas and structures that are not strictly contiguous to the main buildings, but are located within 250 yards of the main buildings, and any of the other areas determined on an individual case basis by the CMS regional office to be part of the provider’s campus.
- Patient Status: Inpatient vs. Outpatient Following criteria 1 and 2, if the patient is an inpatient at both providers (i.e., inpatient status both at the origin and at the destination, providers sharing the same provider number but located on different campuses), then the transport is not separately billable. In this case the provider is responsible for payment. All other combinations (i.e., outpatient-to-inpatient, inpatient-to-outpatient, outpatient-to-outpatient) are separately billable to the program.
In the case where the point of origin is not a provider, Part A coverage is not available because, at the time the beneficiary is being transported, the beneficiary is not an inpatient of any provider paid under Part A of the program and ambulance services are excluded from the 3-day preadmission payment window.
The transfer, i.e., the discharge of a beneficiary from one provider with a subsequent admission to another provider, is also payable as a Part B ambulance transport, provided all program coverage criteria are met, because, at the time that the beneficiary is in transit, the beneficiary is not a patient of either provider and not subject to either the inpatient preadmission payment window or outpatient payment packaging requirements. This includes an outpatient transfer from a remote, off-campus emergency department (ER) to becoming an inpatient or outpatient at the main campus hospital, even if the ER is owned and operated by the hospital.
Patient Transportation Covered Under Part A
Once a beneficiary is admitted to a hospital, CAH, or SNF, it may be necessary to transport the beneficiary to another hospital or other site temporarily for specialized care while the beneficiary maintains inpatient status with the original provider. This movement of the patient is considered “patient transportation” and is covered as an inpatient hospital or CAH service and as a SNF service when the SNF is furnishing it as a covered SNF service and payment is made under Part A for that service. If the beneficiary is a resident of a SNF and must be transported by ambulance to receive dialysis or certain other high-end outpatient hospital services, the ambulance transport may be separately payable under Part B. Also, if the beneficiary is a SNF resident and not in a Part A covered stay and must be transported by ambulance to the nearest supplier of medically necessary services not available at the SNF, the ambulance transport, including the return trip, may be covered under Part B.
Because the service is covered and payable as a beneficiary transportation service under Part A, the service cannot be classified and paid for as an ambulance service under Part B. This includes intra-campus transfers between different departments of the same hospital, even where the departments are located in separate buildings. Such intra-campus transfers are not separately payable under the Part B ambulance benefit. Such costs are accounted for in the same manner as the costs of such a transfer within a single building.
Legion Health Care Solutions is a leading medical billing company that can assist you in revenue cycle functions for your practice. For detailed understanding of Ambulance Transport Coverage Scenarios, you can refer Medicare Benefit Policy Manual Chapter 10 (Ambulance Services). In case of any assistance needed for ambulance/ ASC billing contact us at 727-475-1834 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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