Press release

CMS safeguards patient access to certain medical equipment and servicesin rural and other non-contiguous communities

Interim final rule delivers relief to providers through increased fee schedule rates throughout 2018

On the heels of the Rural Health Strategy released yesterday, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an interim final rule with comment period (IFC) to increase the fee schedule rates from June 1, 2018, through December 31, 2018, for certain durable medical equipment (DME) items and services and enteral nutrition furnished in rural and non-contiguous areas (Alaska, Hawaii, and U.S. territories) of the country not subject to the Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) Competitive Bidding Program (CBP).

Today’s action aims to protect access to needed durable medical equipment in rural and non-contiguous areas that are not subject to the DMEPOS CBP, helping beneficiaries to maintain their health, mobility, and overall quality of life. Stakeholders have raised concerns about significant financial challenges the current adjusted DME fee schedule rates pose for suppliers, including many small businesses, and that the number of suppliers in certain areas continues to decline.

“This action will help Medicare beneficiaries in rural areas continue to access life-sustaining durable medical equipment, like oxygen equipment,” said CMS Administrator Seema Verma.

In 2016 and 2017, information from the DMEPOS CBP was used to adjust Medicare payments for certain DME and enteral nutrition in certain areas of the county where the CBP did not occur (“non-bid areas”). The CBP has not been implemented in rural areas comprising about half the volume of the volume of items and services furnished in non-bid areas subject to the adjustments. Beginning January 1, 2017, the fully adjusted fee schedule rates were on average 50 percent lower than the unadjusted rates in these non-bid areas based on the average reduction in payment for all of the items and services subject to the adjustments, weighted by volume.

In 2016, prior to the fully adjusted fee schedule rates going into effect, blended rates of 50 percent of the amount based on the competitive bid rates and 50 percent of the traditional fee schedule amounts were implemented for the transitional year period. Today’s action resumes these blended rates from June 1, 2018, to December 31, 2018, in rural and non-contiguous areas not subject to the CBP.

CMS is continuing to engage with stakeholders regarding the CBP, including the national mail-order program, and payment for items and services furnished in non-bid areas. Going forward, CMS will continue to review data and information about rates for DMEPOS items and services, as required under section 16008 of the 21st Century Cures Act. CMS intends to undertake subsequent notice-and-comment rulemaking to address the rates for durable medical equipment and enteral nutrition furnished in 2019 and beyond.

For more information on Durable Medical Equipment Fee Schedule, Adjustments to Resume the Transitional 50/50 Blended Rates to Provide Relief in Rural Areas and Non-Contiguous Areas (CMS-1687-IFC) or to submit a comment on or before July 9, 2018, please visit: http://www.regulations.gov.