Ambulance services

Applies to:

All plans

Priority Health Medicare Advantage plans follow Medicare rules, below

Definition:

"Ambulance" includes a motor vehicle or aircraft that is primarily used or designated as available to provide transportation and basic life support, limited advanced life support, or advanced life support.

Emergent transportation is defined as dispatched by a 911 call, whether or not the patient agrees to be taken to the hospital.

Ambulance stabilization is defined as ambulance response, non-transport. The patient is treated and stabilized but no transport is made.

Ambulance services coverage

Transport services

In a medical emergency, all plans cover EMT and ambulance transport to the nearest medical facility that can provide medical emergency care.

Non-emergent transportation, including medically necessary transfer between facilities, is not covered unless the service is authorized in advance.

Non-transport stabilization services

Covered for commercial and Medicaid members.

As of January 1, 2019, we will cover non-transport ambulance stabilization for Medicare members. While Original Medicare doesn't cover it, we've added this supplemental benefit to help members avoid potentially unnecessary costs and inconvenience while reimbursing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) for the services provided.

Medicare coverage

Medicare covers ambulance services, including fixed wing and rotary wing ambulance services, only if they are furnished to a beneficiary whose medical condition is such that other means of transportation are contraindicated. The beneficiary's condition must require the ambulance transportation itself and the level of service provided in order for the billed service to be considered medically necessary.

Ambulance services are divided into different levels of ground (including water) and air ambulance services based on the medically necessary treatment during transport.

Medicaid coverage

Medicaid plans cover some services that other plans do not, such as EMT/ambulance treatment on scene without transport. Refer to the Medicaid Provider Manual.

Ambulance service authorizations

Prior authorization is required for:

Non-emergent ambulance services: If contracted providers don't get authorization prior to providing services, charges will go to provider responsibility.

Fixed-wing emergent transport for Medicare patients

Authorization is not required for:

Emergency ground and helicopter ambulance services

Ambulance stabilization, non-transport, for Priority Health Medicare Advantage members 

Medicare ambulance services billing

Ambulance services provided to Priority Health Medicare Advantage members, as detailed by CMS, must be reported with the appropriate ambulance HCPCS code. Transport services claims must include the correct origin and destination modifiers or the service will be denied. Use the Health Care Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) procedure codes below to describe the type and level of services rendered by the ambulance crew.

Payable:

For emergent transport, when correctly authorized, if necessary (see above), and when the correct origin and destination modifier combination are submitted next to the procedure code

For ambulance stabilization, non-transport, do NOT include modifier

Not payable:

When fixed-wing and non-emergency ambulance services are not authorized in advance

When codes/modifiers are missing.

HCPCS procedure codes

Taken from the WPS website Ambulance Procedure Codes page:

A0425: Ground mileage, per statute mile

A0426: Ambulance service, advanced life support, non-emergency transport, level 1 (ALS1)

A0427: Ambulance service, advanced life support, emergency transport, level 1 (ALS1- Emergency)

A0428: Ambulance service, basic life support, non-emergency transport (BLS)

A0429: Ambulance service, basic life support, emergency transport (BLS-Emergency)

A0430: Ambulance service, conventional air services, transport, one way (fixed wing) (FW)

A0431: Ambulance service, conventional air services, transport, one way (rotary wing) (RW)

A0433: Advanced life support, level 2 (ALS2)

A0434: Specialty care transport (SCT)

A0435: Fixed wing air mileage, per statute mile

A0436: Rotary wing air mileage, per statute mile

A0888: Non-covered ambulance mileage, per mile (e.g., for miles traveled beyond closest appropriate facility)

A0998: Ambulance response and treatment, no transport (covered by Priority Health Medicare, not by Original Medicare); do NOT include modifier

Report origin and destination modifiers with transport claims

For ambulance transport service claims, institutional-based providers and suppliers must report an origin and destination modifier for each ambulance trip provided in HCPCS/Rates.

Origin and destination modifiers used for ambulance services are created by combining two alpha characters. Each alpha character, with the exception of "X", represents an origin code or a destination code. The pair of alpha codes creates one modifier. The first position alpha code equals origin; the second position alpha code equals destination. Origin and destination codes and their descriptions are listed below, and on the WPS website (Note: Do NOT include a modifier with A0998):

D = Diagnostic or therapeutic site other than P or H when these are used as origin codes

E = Residential, domiciliary, custodial facility (other than 1819 facility)

G = Hospital-based ESRD facility

H = Hospital

I = Site of transfer (e.g. airport or helicopter pad) between modes of ambulance transport

J = Freestanding ESRD facility

N = Skilled nursing facility

P = Physician office

R = Residence

S = Scene of accident or acute event

TN = Rural/outside provider's customary service area

X = Intermediate stop at physician office on way to hospital (destination code only)