Providers and others have an unusual opportunity to influence government health policy on issues related to new technology. New technology issues have long been an area of great controversy as industry representatives and providers have complained that federal government policies, especially those pertaining to coverage and pricing, stifle innovation and prevent products from reaching patients who need them most. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a Request for Information (RFI) to solicit ideas and information regarding how HHS can improve "its use of resources and authorities to encourage the development and use of new medical technologies, consistent with the goals of (a) maintaining and improving the quality of health care, (b) controlling overall health care costs, and (c) using timely and practical administrative procedures." In particular, HHS would like to hear from the public regarding challenges in the current marketplace for medical technology development and application, potential options to reduce or eliminate those challenges, and the likely costs and benefits of those options.

The agency is asking for comments "on ways to improve the application of those methods as new medical technologies emerge," including:  

  1. Are there specific CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) coverage or payment policies that should be considered to help assure timely, affordable access to effective new technologies for beneficiaries?
  2. Are there specific refinements within CMS's control, or that would require rulemaking to the criteria or methods used, to determine eligibility for Medicare inpatient add-on payments, outpatient new medical technology, Ambulatory Payment Classification payments or pass through payments that may potentially be modified to potentially improve access to new medical technologies and provide greater value for the program and its beneficiaries?
  3. Is there research on medical technology, tools or funding that is not currently being conducted that potentially could be conducted and/or funded by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality?

The RFI is the result of a series of conferences hosted by HHS held around the country in the latter half of 2008 to discuss how various agencies facilitate the development of innovative medical technologies. Comments must be submitted by 5 p.m. (Eastern time) on April 16, 2009, and may be submitted electronically. For more information, please click here, here and here.