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Medicare Program; Prior Authorization of Repetitive Scheduled Nonemergent Ambulance Transports
This model will begin on December 1, 2014 in South Carolina, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
Medicare covers ambulance services, including air ambulance (fixed wing and rotary wing) services, when furnished to a beneficiary whose medical condition is such that other means of transportation are contraindicated. The beneficiary's condition must require both the ambulance transportation itself and the level of service provided in order for the billed service to be considered medically necessary.
Nonemergent transportation by ambulance is appropriate if either—(1) the beneficiary is bed-confined and it is documented that the beneficiary's condition is such that other methods of transportation are contraindicated; or (2) the beneficiary's medical condition, regardless of bed confinement, is such that transportation by ambulance is medically required. Thus, bed confinement is not the sole criterion in determining the medical necessity of nonemergent ambulance transportation; rather, it is one factor that is considered in medical necessity determinations.
A repetitive ambulance service is defined as medically necessary ambulance transportation that is furnished in 3 round trips or more times during a 10-day period, or at least once per week for at least 3 weeks. Repetitive ambulance services are often needed by beneficiaries receiving dialysis, wound care, or cancer treatment.
Medicare may cover repetitive, scheduled, nonemergent transportation by ambulance if—(1) the medical necessity requirements described previously are met; and (2) the ambulance provider/supplier, before furnishing the service to the beneficiary, obtains a written order from the beneficiary's attending physician certifying that the medical necessity requirements are met.
The following describes examples of various prior authorization scenarios:
• Scenario 1: When an ambulance provider/supplier or beneficiary submits a prior authorization request to the MAC with appropriate documentation and all relevant Medicare coverage and documentation requirements are met for the ambulance transport, the MAC will send a provisional affirmative prior authorization decision to the ambulance provider/supplier and to the beneficiary. When the claim is submitted to the MAC by the ambulance provider/supplier, it is linked to the prior authorization via the claims processing system and the claim will be paid so long as all Medicare coding, billing, and coverage requirements are met. However, after submission, the claim could be denied for technical reasons, such as the claim was a duplicate claim or the claim was for a deceased beneficiary. In addition, a claim denial could occur since certain documentation, such as the trip record, needed in support of the claim cannot be reviewed on a prior authorization request.
• Scenario 2: When an ambulance provider/supplier or beneficiary submits a prior authorization request, but all relevant Medicare coverage requirements are not met, the MAC will send a nonaffirmative prior authorization decision to the ambulance provider/supplier and to the beneficiary, advising them that Medicare will not pay for the service. The provider/supplier or beneficiary may then resubmit the request with documentation showing that Medicare requirements have been met. Alternatively, an ambulance provider/supplier could render the service, and submit a claim with a nonaffirmative prior authorization tracking number, at which point the MAC would deny the claim. The ambulance provider/supplier and/or the beneficiary would then have the Medicare denial for secondary insurance purposes and would have the opportunity to submit an appeal of the claim denial if they believe Medicare coverage was denied inappropriately.
• Scenario 3: When an ambulance provider/supplier or beneficiary submits a prior authorization request with incomplete documentation, a detailed decision letter will be sent to the ambulance provider/supplier and to the beneficiary, with an explanation of what information is missing. The ambulance provider/supplier or beneficiary can rectify the situation and resubmit the prior authorization request with appropriate documentation.
• Scenario 4: When an ambulance provider or supplier renders a service to a beneficiary that is subject to the prior authorization process, and the claim is submitted to the MAC for payment without requesting a prior authorization, the claim will be stopped for prepayment review and documentation will be requested.
++ If the claim is determined to be not medically necessary or to be insufficiently documented, the claim will be denied, and all current policies and procedures regarding liability for payment will apply. The ambulance provider/supplier or the beneficiary or both can appeal the claim denial if they believe the denial was inappropriate.
++ If the claim is determined to be payable, it will be paid.
Only one prior authorization request per beneficiary per designated time period can be provisionally affirmed. If the initial provider/supplier cannot complete the total number of prior authorized transports (for example, the initial ambulance company closes or no longer services that area), the initial request is cancelled. In this situation, a subsequent prior authorization request may be submitted for the same beneficiary and must include the required documentation in the submission. If multiple ambulance providers/suppliers are providing transports to the beneficiary during the same or overlapping time period, the prior authorization decision will only cover the provider/supplier indicated in the provisionally affirmed prior authorization request. Any provider/supplier submitting claims for repetitive scheduled nonemergent ambulance transports for which no prior authorization request is recorded will be subject to 100 percent prepayment medical review of those claims.
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