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Health Care Reform Implications: Medical Device and DME

Over the next few days I’ll be pushing out a series of posts as my schedule permits, on the implications of health care reform for various industry segments.  These are not meant as in-depth analyses, more of a “summary” of the key points.

Reconciliation Act: This Bill has yet to pass the Senate and as a result, it is possible amendments could change these provisions.

The biggest implication is a 2.3% excise tax that goes into effect in 2013. The tax is on manufacturers of devices but exempts Class I devices such as canes, eyeglasses, and hearing aids. Oddly enough, the tax is tax-deductible and applies to all Class II and Class III devices sold beginning Jan 1, 2013. Clearly, the tax impact will be passed along in pricing, assuming price increases will be wholly or partially absorbed via reimbursement. If not, the clear implication is a reduction in margin for device manufacturers.

Other provisions less onerous but still potentially burdensome include a 90 day waiting period for approval of new DME claims to allow the Secretary to conduct analysis of potentially fraudulent claims. This provision assumes the Secretary will identify potential areas of risk and potential categories of supplies that are prone to fraud. I can’t tell from the language whether this will be a “universally applied” wait for all new claims or just certain claims for certain suppliers.

Also within the Reconciliation language is additional funding to fight fraud, waste and abuse. I suspect some allocation of these dollars will be for additional enforcement activity in the Medical Device/DME industry.

Senate Reform Bill: In the Senate Bill the reform bill that will become law today), there are a number of provisions that will impact the industry.

First, there is an imposition of an annual fee on manufacturers and importers of medical devices. The fee is based on 2010 annual sales and will be allocated across the industry based on market share. Best guesses suggest the fee will be in the range of $2 billion. The fee (tax) is non-deductible and doesn’t apply to Class I or Class II device sales or basically any devices sold via retail direct to consumers. Small manufacturers ($5 million or less) will be exempt and manufacturers with sales between $5 million and $25 million will pay 50% of the fee. The Secretary is charged with analyzing the sales of manufacturers and determining the relevant market share of sales for allocation. Again, this applies to non-domestic manufacturers and domestic importers of foreign devices.

The Senate bill expands competitive bidding for DME to 21 additional metro areas and requires the Secretary to nationalize the process and standardize bids by 2018.

Under Medicare, the Senate bill eliminates the 2% add-on payment for DME (above CPI) that Congress provided last year, effective 2014. Instead, the Senate bill incorporates a productivity improvement feature that effectively reduces the DME fee schedule by 1%, applied to the annual update factor for DME.

Finally, the Senate bill eliminates the option for patients to elect Medicare to purchase a power wheelchair within the first month of medical need approval. Instead, Medicare will pay rental on the chair for 13 months, incorporating a portion of the purchase price in its payments to the DME supplier. Effectively, Medicare pays for the chair to the DME supplier over the 13 months at the end of the period, transferring the ownership of the chair to the beneficiary.

In my opinion, the immediate and near-term questions center on whether the Senate will make adjustments to the Reconciliation Bill and will Congress maintain the taxes and fees outlined. Historically, the Congress post-passage of major entitlements and legislation that raises taxes and/or cuts payments has balked to lobbying pressure and ultimately, restored cuts and enhanced payments. In this scenario, anyone’s guess is as good as mine in terms of what could happen.

March 23, 2010 - Posted by | Home Health, Policy and Politics - Federal, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,


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