CMS to expand DME competitive bidding

Despite criticisms from the medical device industry, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) plans to continue its expansion of a competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment (DME), reports The Hill's Healthwatch.

According to CMS, an initial pilot project in nine U.S. cities saved about $130 million during its first six months of operation. Costs on average were reduced by 35 percent. Officials say they will expand the program into 70 more metropolitan areas. They project competitive bidding could save $28 billion over the next decade--one-third of which would be costs directly incurred by patients.

"We...need to take stock and take credit for what's been achieved so far, and from a CMS perspective, DME competitive bidding is one that we're proud of and one we believe is working," said CMS Deputy Administrator Jonathan Blum. He added that the agency may look at expanding competitive bidding for products and services outside DME, which is mostly confined to products such as wheelchairs, oxygen supplies, and specialized beds.

DME has been a locus for Medicare fraud in the past, with audits by government agencies turning up dummy businesses that bill CMS for millions of dollars of equipment that is never purchased or delivered.

Despite those issues, DME manufacturers and distributors have blamed the program for making it difficult to get DME orders to patients in a reasonable amount of time, and possibly leading to unnecessary hospitalizations and longer hospital stays.

To learn more:
- read The Hill's Healthwatch blog entry
- read the CMS overview