News Briefs

Moran’s amendment on VA reimbursement for ambulance services clears Senate

By: - November 2, 2023 7:30 am
Kansas Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, speaking here last year after U.S. forces left Afghanistan, says he will back a bipartisan bill aiding Afghan military allies in the United States and abroad. (Kansas Reflector screen capture of U.S. Senate YouTube channel)

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said the Senate approved a measure delaying a plan by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to lower ambulance reimbursement rates in February. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from U.S. Senate's YouTube channel)

TOPEKA — The U.S. Senate passed legislation that included an amendment sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas blocking the Department of Veterans Affairs from implementing a rule in 2024 reducing reimbursement rates for emergency ground and air ambulance services.

The bipartisan amendment — a comparable measure has been introduced in the U.S. House — would sideline a VA policy set to take effect in February.

Moran said the policy would lead to longer wait times for veterans during emergencies and disrupt the ambulance industry in Kansas and elsewhere.

“This amendment makes certain that veterans across the nation will continue to receive lifesaving care and transportation without disruption over the next year,” Moran said. “By stopping this rule from being implemented in February, we will allow more time for VA to do its due diligence in creating reasonable and commonsense parameters for resetting reimbursement rates for these lifesaving services.”

The Senate amendment regarding transportation services was sponsored by Moran, Democratic U.S. Jon tester of Montana and Republican Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas. All three serve on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

In the House, GOP U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke of Montana said a fix for the VA policy had been introduced. The VA rule would reduce reimbursement amounts for ambulance services by linking payment for air ambulance services to 1998 data and for ground transport to 2002 data.

Small, and mostly rural, operators would likely be forced to either shut down or stop offering services to the VA if Congress didn’t agree on a fix, Zinke said.

“Our veterans were there when we needed them the most, and now it is our job to be there for them when they need us,” Zinke said. “Operating off  25-year-old data for lifesaving measures when we have the resources to do better is inexcusable.”

He said the VA indicated it didn’t have statutory authority to to negotiate contracts for emergency transportation, which required adherence to previous fee schedules.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International.