The United States Department of Health and Human Services is working on a pilot program that would give ambulance operators the option—aided by incentives—to take patients with nonemergent complaints to lower-cost setting like urgent care instead of the emergency room. While the aim is to reduce Medicare and Medicaid costs, patients would benefit from getting in and out of a healthcare facility in less time, with less exposure to whatever brought other patients to the ED. And urgent care, obviously, would be seeing more patients who could become repeat customers. HHS includes urgent care, retail clinics, and telemedicine among the “nontraditional healthcare services” where patients can see a provider at the appropriate acuity level for their complaint. Under the program, ambulance providers would have equal financial incentive to deliver patients to the ED or to urgent care or an office with access to a remote telemedicine provider.  Generally, with few exceptions, Medicare only pays for emergency ambulance services if the patient is transported to a hospital. If the pilot is successful, HHS will look at expanding it across the country.


HHS Ambulance Program Would Cut Costs and Push More Patients to Urgent Care
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