Medicare ambulance rides may no longer end up at ER

WASHINGTON (AP) — Medicare officials say they want to change how the program pays for emergency ambulance services to give seniors more options besides going to a hospital emergency department.

Other options could include going to an urgent care center, a doctor’s office, or even treatment at home under supervision of a doctor via telehealth links.

The plan announced Thursday is just a pilot project for now, but if adopted nationwide it could save Medicare more than $500 million a year and allow local fire departments and ambulance services to focus resources on the most serious emergencies by reducing time-consuming hospital runs.

Some advocates for patients welcomed the plan, but said it needs careful review and supervision.

Currently Medicare only pays for transportation to a hospital, in most cases.

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