Medicare reimbursement will be cut by an average of 45% for suppliers participating in Round 2 of the Medicare durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies (DMEPOS) competitive bidding program, CMS announced on January 30, 2013. Medicare reimbursement will fall even more dramatically under the national mail order competition for diabetic testing supplies, with payment reduced by 72% compared to current fee schedule amounts (and under the terms of the new “fiscal cliff” law, these prices will be applied in the retail setting as well). Round 2 and national mail-order contracts and prices are scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2013. CMS estimates that competitive bidding will save the Medicare Part B Trust Fund $25.7 billion and Medicare beneficiaries $17.1 billion between 2013 and 2022. 

By way of background, under competitive bidding, only suppliers that are winning bidders, meet licensing and other standards, and enter into a contract with CMS may furnish selected categories of DMEPOS to Medicare beneficiaries in competitive bidding areas (CBAs), with very limited exceptions. Winning bidders who sign contracts are paid based on the median of the winning suppliers’ bids in the CBA, rather than the DMEPOS fee schedule amount. The Round 1 “Rebid” went into effect January 1, 2011 in nine CBAs, involving nine product categories. Payment amounts under the Round 1 rebid average 32% below the Medicare DMEPOS fee schedule amounts. CMS has recently conducted a “recompete” for six product categories in the Round 1 Rebid areas (including additional products) to take effect in 2014.

Round 2 will take place in 100 CBAs covering 91 metropolitan statistical areas, with three-year contracts effective July 1, 2013. CMS announced yesterday that the weighted average savings by product category are as follows:

  • Oxygen, Oxygen Equip. & Supplies - 41%
  • Standard (power & manual) Wheelchairs, Scooters, & Accessories - 36%
  • Enteral Nutrients, Equip. & Supplies - 41%
  • CPAP/RAD & Related Supplies & Accessories - 47%
  • Hospital Beds & Accessories - 44%
  • Walkers & Accessories - 46%
  • Support Surfaces (Group 2 Mattresses & Overlays) - 63%
  • NPWT Pumps & Related Supplies & Accessories - 41%

CMS also conducted a national mail-order competition for diabetic testing supplies concurrent with the Round 2 competition. CMS announced that Medicare payment for diabetic testing supplies (100 lancets and test strips) under competitive bidding will be reduced from $77.90 to a national rate of $22.47. While the competition for diabetic testing supplies was intended to apply only to mail-order suppliers, it is important to note that the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 (ATRA), which was signed into law on January 2, 2013, sets Medicare payment amounts for retail diabetic supplies at the national mail order competitive bidding single-payment amounts, effective July 1, 2013.  In other words, as a result of the ATRA, the competitive bidding process is being used to reduce pricing for DMEPOS other than items that actually were subject to competitive bidding. This policy was adopted despite CMS’s previous acknowledgment that "there are pricing differences between mail order and non-mail order diabetic testing supplies because of the delivery methods for these supplies."  Even though under competitive bidding program rules, only successful bidders that sign a contract with CMS will be eligible to furnish mail order diabetes supplies to Medicare beneficiaries as of July 1, 2013, Medicare beneficiaries will not be limited to using contract suppliers to obtain retail/storefront diabetes supplies. In sum, a Medicare beneficiary must use a contract supplier to obtain mail order diabetic testing supplies, but can pick up diabetic testing supplies from any local retailer; the payment to the supplier and the beneficiary copayment will be the same in either setting. (The ATRA also temporarily reduces fee schedule amounts for retail diabetic testing supplies to mail order amounts from April 1, 2013 until the national mail-order program single payment amounts start on July 1, 2013.)

CMS next will be mailing contracts to “winning” bidders. According to a CMS fact sheet, 14,654 contract offers will be made to 867 Round 2 bidders, who have 3,109 locations to serve Medicare beneficiaries in the CBAs. CMS also will offer 15 contracts for the national mail-order program; the national mail-order program winners have 48 locations in all. CMS notes that about 62% of Round 2 winning suppliers are small suppliers (gross revenues of $3.5 million or less), and 33% of national mail-order contract offers will go to small suppliers. When the contracting process is complete, unsuccessful bidders will be notified of the reasons they were not offered a contract. CMS expects to announce the names of the contract suppliers in the spring of 2013. CMS and the Competitive Bidding Implementation Contractor (CBIC) also will be stepping up educational activities leading up to implementation of Round 2 and national mail-order bidding.