In 2002, Medicare implemented a national fee schedule designed to standardize payments for ambulance services. The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) required GAO to study ambulance service costs. GAO examined providers' costs of ground ambulance transports in 2004 and factors that contributed to cost differences; average Medicare ambulance payments expected under the national fee schedule in 2010 and how those payments will relate to providers' costs per transport; and changes that occurred in Medicare beneficiaries' use of ambulance transports from 2001 to 2004. GAO estimated costs of ambulance transports based on a nationally representative survey of 215 ambulance providers that did not share costs with nonambulance services. Providers that shared costs with other institutions or services and could not report their costs for ambulance services separately, such as fire departments, were excluded because their reported costs appeared unreliable. GAO used its survey, Medicare claims, and other data for its analyses.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services||1. In light of the variability in ambulance providers' Medicare margins and the potential for negative margins to have an impact on beneficiary access, the Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services should monitor utilization of ambulance transports to ensure that Medicare payments are adequate to provide for beneficiary access to ambulance services, particularly in super-rural areas.|