With the signing of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 on March 11th, CMS will now be allowed to reimburse ambulance services for treating patients in place during the public health emergency caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The measure comes in response to the widespread need for treatment-in-place caused by the pandemic. As hospitals reached capacity and it became clear that not every patient needed transport to the emergency room, many EMS agencies were directed to render services to patients in their homes, avoiding transport where possible. Traditionally, EMS has only been reimbursed for transporting patients to the hospital.
Rob Lawrence, director of strategic implementation of PRO EMS and executive director of the California Ambulance Association, described the impact of the measure: "Specifically, this waiver would allow CMS to pay for ground ambulance services furnished in response to a 911 call (or equivalent in areas without 911) in cases where a patient was not transported but was instead treated in place in accordance with community-wide EMS protocols."