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Senators Pitch Bill for Medicare Coverage of Disposable Devices

Medicare does not provide durable medical equipment coverage for disposable home-use devices, but newly-introduced proposed legislation would change that.

Marie Thibault


A bill recently introduced in the Senate calls for CMS to cover disposable medical technologies used at home as part of Medicare's durable medical equipment (DME) benefit.

Medical devices like wheelchairs, walkers, blood glucose monitors, and home oxygen equipment are classified by Medicare as DMEs. Accordingly, disposable devices do not fit into Medicare's definition of "durable," with a minimum lifetime requirement of three years.

Senators Richard Burr (R–NC) and Michael Bennet (D–CO) have introduced the "Patient Access to Disposable Medical Technology Act of 2015," S. 1253 to change this. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. The legislation proposed Medicare coverage of such disposable medical technologies as DME, with a "payment rate . . . 95% of the analogous DME product."  

According to a summary of the bill, "Innovation in health care technologies, such as disposable technologies, will help to advance cost-effective, easy to use products, which also hold the potential to lower Medicare spending and the health of beneficiaries served by this program." 

In a release announcing the legislation, Burr said, "Senior shouldn't have to live with bulky, outdated medical technologies when there are better, modern options available to them." Bennet said, "Medical innovation has helped make life easier for a lot of Colorado seniors. Unfortunately, Medicare hasn't kept pace to ensure beneficiaries have access to innovative, disposable technologies that are easy to use and often less expensive. This bill makes a simple updated to the Medicare program to ensure both disposable and durable technologies are covered."

Industry group AdvaMed has applauded the legislation. President and CEO Stephen Ubl said in a press release, "As medicine advances and innovation occurs in the treatment of injuries, illnesses, disabilities, and chronic conditions, Medicare beneficiaries are losing access to disposable forms of durable devices that traditionally have been covered under the DME benefit. The legislation introduced today will eliminate this obstacle, providing beneficiaries and their physicians the additional choice of a disposable medical technology to meet their individual need."

The senators' proposal follows similar legislation introduced earlier this year in the House of Representatives. A bill of the same name, H.R. 1018, was introduced by Representatives Renee Ellmers (R–NC), G.K. Butterfield (D–NC), and Marsha Blackburn (R–TN) in February.  


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Marie Thibault is the associate editor at MD+DI. Reach her at [email protected] and on Twitter @medtechmarie


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