Ciscomani, Sinema oppose proposed VA rule cutting ambulance reimbursement

Lawmakers from both parties in Congress are vocalizing opposition to a proposed Veterans Affairs cut to reimbursement rates for ambulance services set to take effect in February.

The move is so the department can avoid overpaying for emergency medical transportation services, but critics warn it could lead to less access to that transportation to VA hospitals if the payment model is shifted. 

"The new payment methodology will apply in the absence of a contract between VA and a vendor of the special mode of transportation. For transport by ambulance, VA will pay the lesser of the actual charge or the amount determined by the Medicare Part B Ambulance Fee Schedule established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services," the rule summary states as listed in the Federal Register. "For travel by modes other than ambulance, VA will establish a payment methodology based on States' posted rates or the actual charge."

Arizona Reps. Juan Ciscomani and Debbie Lesko are co-sponsors of House Resolution 5530, which would stop the proposed rule change from going into effect. 

"We need to be working to reduce the burdens and hardships our veterans face when it comes to accessing the health care they rightfully deserve, especially in times of emergency," Ciscomani told The Center Square in a statement. 

"This bipartisan legislation protects veterans' emergency medical services by requiring a comprehensive review of reduction in reimbursement rates before they are enacted. We have a duty to provide for those who sacrificed so much for our freedoms and this bill helps to fulfill that solemn responsibility," he continued.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who is on the Veterans' Affairs Committee, is a co-sponsor of a similar Senate bill, and she said in a statement last month that she's concerned about the impact on rural veterans.

"Arizona veterans earned quality care – and that includes access to emergency transportation. That is why we are stopping VA's new unfair rule making emergency transportation out of reach for Arizona veterans to ensure fair ambulance and transportation rates for Arizona veterans living in rural communities across our state," Sinema said in the statement

Local veterans advocates have also been skeptical of the rule.

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