Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport (ET3) Model

Emergency Triage, Treat, and Transport (ET3) is a voluntary, five-year payment model that will provide greater flexibility to ambulance care teams to address emergency health care needs of Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) beneficiaries following a 911 call. CMS will continue to pay to transport a Medicare FFS beneficiary to a hospital emergency department or other covered destination. In addition, under the model, CMS will pay participants to 1) transport to an alternative destination partner, such as a primary care office, urgent care clinic, or a community mental health center (CMHC), or 2) initiate and facilitate treatment in place with a qualified health care partner, either at the scene of the 911 emergency response or via telehealth.

The model will allow beneficiaries to access the most appropriate emergency services at the right time and place. The model will also encourage local governments, their designees, or other entities that operate or have authority over one or more 911 dispatches to promote successful model implementation by establishing a medical triage line for low-acuity 911 calls. As a result, the ET3 Model aims to improve quality and lower costs by reducing avoidable transports to the ED and unnecessary hospitalizations following those transports.

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Background

Medicare regulations have historically only allowed payment for emergency ground ambulance services when individuals are transported to hospitals, critical access hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and dialysis centers. Most beneficiaries who call 911 with a medical emergency are therefore transported to one of these facilities, and most often to a hospital ED, even when a lower-acuity destination may more appropriately meet an individual’s needs.

In March 2020, CMS announced in a press release an Interim Final Rule with Comment Period (IFC) that provides temporary regulatory waivers and new rules to equip the American healthcare system with maximum flexibility to respond to the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE). The IFC and all of CMS’s COVID-19 waivers and flexibilities can be found on the CMS Coronavirus waivers & flexibilities web page.

For the duration of the Coronavirus-19 disease Public Health Emergency, CMS temporarily expanded the list of allowable destinations for ambulance transports. Participants in the model will be able to continue to access these flexibilities while participating in the model, for as long as they are available.

As part of an ET3 intervention, Participants in the ET3 Model will receive payment for ambulance services for transport to alternative destinations at the appropriate emergency Basic Life Support (BLS-E) or emergency Advance Life Support, Level 1 (ALS1-E) rate. When implementing the ET3 transport to an alternative destination intervention, the Participant must establish arrangements with alternative destination partners located within their model region and comply with all related ET3 Model requirements.

Participants may also transport beneficiaries to covered destinations under the ambulance flexibilities and bill Medicare as usual. These transports will not be considered ET3 interventions, although, in many cases, they will suffice to allow ET3 Participants to also implement the optional Treatment in Place intervention, which Participants may only implement if they are also making transport to alternative destinations available to ET3 Model beneficiaries. Payment rates for transport under the flexibilities and under the ET3 Model are the same.

Once the PHE ends, Participants will still be required to implement the ET3 transport to an alternative destination intervention consistent with ET3 Model requirements and may transport only to alternative destination partners.

Model Details

With the support of local governments, their designees, or other entities that operate or have authority over one or more 911 dispatches, ambulance suppliers and providers will triage people seeking emergency care based on their presenting needs. The model aims to ensure Medicare FFS beneficiaries receive the most appropriate care, at the right time, and in the right place. The model may help make EMS systems more efficient and will provide beneficiaries broader access to the care they need. Beneficiaries who receive treatment from alternative destinations may also save on out-of-pocket costs. An individual can always choose to be brought to an ED if he/she prefers.

The ET3 Model aims to reduce expenditures and preserve or enhance quality of care by:

  • Providing person-centered care, such that beneficiaries receive the appropriate level of care delivered safely at the right time and place while having greater control of their healthcare through the availability of more options
  • Encouraging appropriate utilization of services to meet health care needs effectively.
  • Increasing efficiency in the EMS system to more readily respond to and focus on high-acuity cases, such as heart attacks and strokes.

Participation

The Participants of the ET3 Model are Medicare-enrolled ambulance service suppliers and hospital-owned ambulance providers. Upon arriving on the scene of a 911 response, participating ambulance suppliers and providers may triage Medicare FFS beneficiaries to one of the model’s interventions. As part of a multi-payer alignment strategy, the Innovation Center encourages ET3 Model participants to partner with additional payers, including state Medicaid agencies, to provide similar interventions to all people in their geographic areas.

Funding

The Innovation Center released a Request For Applications (RFA) (PDF) in Summer 2019 to solicit Medicare-enrolled ambulance suppliers and providers. The ET3 Model opened the RFA Online Portal from August 5, 2019 through October 5, 2019 and announced the selection of 205 applicants on February 27, 2020. The Innovation Center issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) on March 12, 2021 for up to 40 cooperative agreements, however on September 13, 2021, the CMS announced its decision to withdraw the ET3 NOFO due to insufficient applications received. CMS considered its options carefully before reaching the decision to not implement the medical triage line component of the Model. The insufficient number of applications received would not allow for a sufficient number of Agreements to adequately determine whether the medical triage line intervention described in the NOFO has the potential to maintain or improve quality of care for beneficiaries and reduce Medicare program spending under the Model.

Timing

The ET3 Model RFA ambulance component will have a five-year performance period. In response to the COVID-19 PHE, CMS delayed the start of the ET3 Model. The first performance period for ET3 Model Participants began on January 1, 2021. 

Webinars

Request for Applications (RFA)

Additional Information

Media

If you are interested in additional information or have questions about the ET3 Model, please review the Frequently Asked Questions page or contact ET3model@cms.hhs.gov.

Last updated on:
09/23/2021