CMS raises Medicare ambulance service pay

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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services began paying higher rates for ambulance services as of Thursday. The new rule puts into effect certain provisions of the Medicare Modernization Act, which was passed late last year.

Overall, payments are expected to rise $840 for ambulance services over the next five years. The new rule is intended to help the transition to a national fee schedule for ambulances operated by long-term care facilities and other providers that went into effect April 1, 2002.

The rate increase breakdown is: 1% for urban ambulance services and 2% for rural services provided through 2006. Trips of 50 miles or more get a 25% hike in mileage rates for the next four years. "Super rural" areas bring a 22.6% "bonus" increase in the base rate through 2009.