Prior authorization dramatically lowered the use of regular, non-emergency ambulance transportation among Medicare beneficiaries without affecting quality or beneficiaries' access to care, according to a government report on Monday.
Those are the results of a CMS Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation experiment to test whether requiring ambulance service providers to get pre-approval for such services would reduce their use among Medicare beneficiaries with End-stage Renal Disease or pressure ulcers.
Researchers found that prior authorization reduced unnecessary use and spending by more than 70%, lowering total Medicare spending by 2.4%. The findings suggest that expanding prior authorization for regular non-emergency ambulance transportation could save Medicare even more money without affecting beneficiaries' health.
"That said, we believe these savings would be smaller than those estimated in this report. Given that CMS initially chose model states with particularly high baseline rates of RSNAT use, the findings here may not generalize to states that have more moderate rates of RSNAT use," the report said.
According to CMMI, prior authorization reduced Medicare spending among the original states far more than the ones added by Congress. For each quarter, spending in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and South Carolina dropped by $481 per beneficiary compared to just $112 per beneficiary in the congressionally-mandated states.
The agency has been testing prior authorization for repetitive, scheduled, non-emergency ambulance transportation for its Medicare beneficiaries in several states since 2014 to address concerns about improper payments for those services.