The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is planning a potentially-significant overhaul of Medicare pricing rules for new items of durable medical equipment (DME), prosthetics, orthotics and supplies (DMEPOS) as part of its proposed annual DMEPOS policy update for calendar year (CY) 2020. The proposed rule also includes DMEPOS competitive bidding program (CBP) updates and proposals to streamline requirements for ordering DMEPOS items.
Under a decades-old policy, CMS uses a highly imprecise “gap-fill” process to establish fees for new items of DMEPOS for which charges in the statutory “base year” are unavailable. In such cases, CMS and its contractors use fees for comparable items, supplier prices, manufacturer’s suggested retail prices, or wholesale prices plus a markup to approximate current pricing. To remove the impact of inflation, CMS next “deflates” the prices back to the base year period (1986 or 1987 depending on the item – well before the time the item was available or likely even invented). CMS then applies the annual covered item update factors specified in the statute to establish current rates.
CMS notes that it has “heard frequently from manufacturers that do not agree that their newly developed DMEPOS item is comparable to older technology DMEPOS items and services.” Nevertheless, CMS contends that there are benefits to identifying and basing rates on comparable items, including avoiding providing a competitive advantage to manufacturers of new items. To improve transparency and predictability in the sources of data and selection of comparable items and services for gap-fill purposes, however, CMS proposes to codify a framework for establishing fees for new DMEPOS items (i.e., new Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) codes) that do not have a fee schedule pricing history).
CMS’ proposal is complex. In general, under the proposal, CMS would first seek to use existing fee schedule amounts for DMEPOS that it determines to be “comparable” based on one or more of the following “components and attributes”:
Comparable Item Analysis (Any combination of, but not limited to, the categories below for a device or its subcomponents)
|Aesthetics, Design, Customized vs. Standard, Material, Portable, Size, Temperature Range/ Tolerance, Weight.
|Automated vs. Manual, Brittleness, Ductility, Durability, Elasticity, Fatigue, Flexibility, Hardness, Load Capacity, Flow-Control, Permeability, Strength.
|Capacitance, Conductivity, Dielectric Constant, Frequency, Generator, Impedance, Piezo-electric, Power, Power Source, Resistance.
|Function and Intended
|Function, Intended Use.
|Additional Attributes and Features
|‘‘Smart’’, Alarms, Constraints, Device Limitations, Disposable Parts, Features, Invasive vs. Non-Invasive
If CMS determines that there are no items with existing fee schedule amounts considered comparable to the new item, CMS would establish the fee schedule amount based on either:
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