There’s nothing fishy about ambulance services atop Medicare payment list

The danger of raw data is that it has to be interpreted and analyzed beyond the superficial first layer before it even begins to make sense


It shouldn’t come as a surprise that ambulance services are at the top of the Medicare national payment list released for the first time this week.

The EMS population is disproportionately represented by economically disadvantaged patients, and those with little or no health care insurance who rely on government assistance to pay for a minimum level of health care.

In this list, three of the 10 transportation agencies are county 911 providers, and it’s possible that at least a few of the remaining services are contracted providers.

If there is an implication that something fishy – or flat-out fraudulent – is going on with the medical transportation industry, you really have to look very closely at the numbers to understand exactly what they mean. 

It’s true we’ve seen some spectacular fraud schemes over the years. But the rare instances are far outweighed by agencies that receive inadequate reimbursement for the cost of providing service.

The financial losses incurred in the treatment and transport of patients are offset by higher premiums and payments for those with health insurance or the ability to pay. EMS and medical transportation has played this cat-and-mouse money game for decades. It’s not right, and it’s not wrong - it’s just how it has always been.

Lawmakers who might inadvertently assume less-than-honest practices  should take the time to really understand the flow of reimbursement money through EMS and emergency departments. Most of us will confirm we’re not getting rich off of these payments. 

I have no doubt that  stories of this nature will reappear in other states over the next few days and weeks. The danger of raw data is that it has to be interpreted and analyzed beyond the superficial first layer before it begins to make sense.

We’ll see whether that will happen.

Recommended for you

Join the discussion

Copyright © 2022 EMS1. All rights reserved.