Definition of Level of Service
Basic Life Support
Basic life support (BLS) is transportation by ground ambulance vehicle and the provision of medically necessary supplies and services, including BLS ambulance services as defined by the state.
The ambulance vehicle must be staffed by at least two people who meet the requirements of the state and local laws where the services are being furnished, and at least one of the staff members must be certified at a minimum as an emergency medical technician-basic (EMT-Basic) by the state or local authority where the services are being furnished and be legally authorized to operate all lifesaving and life-sustaining equipment on board the vehicle. These laws may vary from state to state or within a state. For example, only in some jurisdictions is an EMT-Basic permitted to operate limited equipment onboard the vehicle, assist more qualified personnel in performing assessments and interventions, and establish a peripheral intravenous (IV) line.
Basic Life Support (BLS) Emergency
Definition: When medically necessary, the provision of BLS services, in the context of an emergency response.
Emergency response is a BLS or ALS1 level of service that has been provided in immediate response to a 911 call or the equivalent. An immediate response is one in which the ambulance provider/supplier begins as quickly as possible to take the steps necessary to respond to the call.
Advanced Life Support, Level 1 (ALS1)
Advanced life support, level 1 (ALS1) is the transportation by ground ambulance vehicle and the provision of medically necessary supplies and services including the provision of an ALS assessment by ALS personnel or at least one ALS intervention.
An advanced life support (ALS) assessment is an assessment performed by an ALS crew as part of an emergency response that was necessary because the patient's reported condition at the time of dispatch was such that only an ALS crew was qualified to perform the assessment. An ALS assessment does not necessarily result in a determination that the patient requires an ALS level of service. In the case of an appropriately dispatched ALS Emergency service, if the ALS crew completes an ALS Assessment, the services provided by the ambulance transportation service provider or supplier shall be covered at the ALS emergency level, regardless of whether the patient required ALS intervention services during the transport, provided that ambulance transportation itself was medically reasonable and necessary, and all other coverage requirements are met.
An advanced life support (ALS) intervention is a procedure that is in accordance with state and local laws, required to be done by an emergency medical technician-intermediate (EMT-Intermediate) or EMT-Paramedic.
Advanced Life Support, Level 1 (ALS1) - Emergency
When medically necessary, the provision of ALS1 services, in the context of an emergency response. Emergency response is a BLS or ALS1 level of service that has been provided in immediate resposne to a 911 call or the equivalent. An immediate response is one in which the ambulance provider/supplier begins as quickly as possible to take the steps necessary to respond to the call.
Advanced Life Support, Level 2 (ALS2)
Advanced Life Support, level 2 (ALS2) is the transportation by ground ambulance vehicle and the provision of medically necessary supplies and services including (1) at least three separate administrations of one of more medications by intravenous (IV) push/bolus or by continuous infusion (excluding crystalloid fluids) or (2) ground ambulance transport, medically necessary supplies and services, and the provision of at least one of the ALS2 procedures listed below:
a. Manual defibrillation/cardioversion;
b. Endotracheal intubation;
c. Central venous line;
d. Cardiac pacing;
e. Chest decompression;
f. Surgical airway; or
g. Intraosseous line
Specialty Care Transport (SCT)
Specialty care transport (SCT) is the interfacility transportation of a critically injured or ill beneficiary by a ground ambulance vehicle, including the provision of medically necessary supplies and services, at a level of service beyond the scope of the EMT-Paramedic. SCT is necessary when a beneficiary's condition requires ongoing care that must be furnished by one or more health professionals in an appropriate specialty area, for example, emergency or critical care nursing, emergency medicine, respiratory care, cardiovascular care, or an EMT-Paramedic with additional training.
SCT is necessary when a beneficiary's condition requires ongoing care that must be furnished by one or more health professionals in an appropriate specialty area. The EMT-Paramedic level of care is set by each state. Medically necessary care that is furnished at a level above the EMT-Paramedic level of care may qualify as SCT. To be clear, if EMT-Paramedics- without specialty care certification or qualification - are permitted to furnish a given service in a state, then that service does not qualify for SCT. The phrase "EMT-Paramedic with additional training" recognizes that a state may permit a person who is not only certified as an EMT-Paramedic, but who also has successfully completed additional education as determined by the state in furnishing higher level medical services required by critically ill or critically injured patients, to furnish a level of services that otherwise would require a health professional in an appropriate specialty care area (for example, a nurse) to provide. "Additional training" means the specific additional training that a state requires a paramedic to complete in order to qualify to furnish specialty care to a critically ill or injured patient during a SCT.
Paramedic Intercept (PI)
Paramedic Intercept services are ALS services provided by an entity that does not provide the ambulance transport. This type of service is most often provided for an emergency ambulance transport in which a local volunteer ambulance that can provide only basic life support (BLS) level of service is dispatched to transport a patient. If the patient needs ALS services such as EKG monitoring, chest decompression, or I.V. therapy, another entity dispatches a paramedic to meet the BLS ambulance at the scene or once the ambulance is on the way to the hospital. The ALS paramedics then provide services to the patient.
This tiered approach to life saving is cost effective in many areas because most volunteer ambulances do not charge for their services and one paramedic service can cover many communities. Prior to March 1, 1999, Medicare payment could be made for these services, but could not be made directly to the intercept service provider; rather, Medicare payment could be made only when the claim was submitted by the entity that actually furnished the ambulance transport. In those areas where state laws prohibited volunteer ambulances from billing Medicare and other health insurance, the intercept service could not receive payment for treating a Medicare beneficiary and was forced to bill the beneficiary for the entire service.
Paramedic intercept services furnished on or after March 1, 1999, are payable separate from the ambulance transport when all of the requirements in the following three conditions are met:
I. The intercept service(s) is:
- Furnished in a rural area (as defined below);
- Furnished under a contract with one or more volunteer ambulance services; and
- Medically necessary based on the condition of the beneficiary receiving the ambulance service.
II. The volunteer ambulance service involved must:
- Meet Medicare's certification requirements for furnishing ambulance services;
- Furnish services only at the BLS level at the time of the intercept; and
- Be prohibited by state law from billing anyone for any service.
III. The entity furnishing the ALS paramedic intercept service must:
- Meet Medicare's certification requirements for furnishing ALS services, and,
- Bill all recipients who receive ALS paramedic intercept services from the entity, regardless of whether or not those recipients are Medicare beneficiaries.
For purposes of the paramedic intercept benefit, a rural area is an area that is designated as rural by a state law or regulation or that is located in a rural census tract of a metropolitan statistical area (as determined under the most recent version of the Goldsmith Modification). (The Goldsmith Modification is a methodology to identify small towns and rural areas within large metropolitan counties that are isolated from central areas by distance or other features). The current list of these areas is periodically published in the Federal Register.
Fixed Wing Air Ambulance (FW)
Fixed wing air ambulance is furnished when the beneficiary's medical condition is such that transport by ground ambulance, in whole or in part, is not appropriate. Generally, transport by fixed wing air ambulance may be necessary because the beneficiary's condition requires rapid transport to a treatment facility, and either great distances or other obstacles, e.g., heavy traffic, preclude such rapid delivery to the nearest appropriate facility. Transport by fixed wing air ambulance may also be necessary because the beneficiary is inaccessible by a ground or water ambulance vehicle.
Rotary Wing Air Ambulance (RW)
Rotary wing air ambulance is furnished when the beneficiary's medical condition is such that transport by ground ambulance, in whole or in part, is not appropriate. Generally, transport by rotary wing air ambulance may be necessary because the beneficiary's condition requires rapid transport to a treatment facility, and either great distances or other obstacles, e.g., heavy traffic, preclude such rapid delivery to the nearest appropriate facility. Transport by rotary wing air ambulance may also be necessary because the beneficiary is inaccessible by a ground or water ambulance vehicle.
Rural Air Ambulance Services
"Rural air ambulance service" means fixed wing and rotary wing air ambulance service in which the point of pick up of the individual occurs in a rural area (as defined in Section 1886(d)(2)(D)) or in a rural census tract of a metropolitan statistical area (as determined under the most recent modification of the Goldsmith Modification, originally published in the Federal Register on February 27, 1992)) (57 Fed. Reg. 6725).