CMS Releases DME Face-to-Face Encounter Final Rule

November 13, 2012

On November 1, 2012, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published its final rule detailing the durable medical equipment (DME) face-to-face encounter requirements. In response to the various comments submitted, CMS made several key revisions to the proposed rule that was released on July 6, 2012.

The DME face-to-face encounter final rule requires that a physician, physician assistant, nurse practitioner or clinical nurse specialist perform a face-to-face encounter as a condition of payment for certain DME items. Even though the face-to-face encounter may be performed by any of these practitioners, the encounter must be documented by the physician in order for the supplier to receive payment.

In its final rule, CMS states that the requirements contained in the final rule will only apply to new orders written on or after the effective date (i.e. the rule will not be applied retroactively to orders already written). The effective date for this provision is July 1, 2013, which CMS believes will give suppliers sufficient time to implement the new policy.
In addition, the final rule also made changes to the face-to-face timing requirements, which include: (1) the face-to-face encounter must occur within the 6 months preceding the written order, which is an expansion from the original requirement of 3 months; and (2) the option to perform the face-to-face encounter 30 days after the written order has been removed from the rule. Furthermore, Medicare beneficiaries discharged from a hospital do not need to receive a separate face-to-face encounter, so long as the physician or treating practitioner issues the DME order within 6 months after the date in which beneficiary was discharged from the hospital.

The final rule also states that for DME items that do not require written orders before delivery, verbal orders are sufficient for the supplier to dispense DME; however, the supplier must obtain written orders prior to submitting a claim for payment. In contrast, for DME items that do require written orders before delivery, the supplier must have the written order, including the face-to-face documentation, prior to delivery when submitting a claim for payment.

Finally, CMS removed the proposed requirement that DME orders include "necessary and proper usage instructions" and the diagnosis. However, CMS still expects to see related diagnoses included in the beneficiary's medical records and expects suppliers to continue to provide instructions to the beneficiary or care giver for proper usage of the DME item.

It is important that suppliers become familiar with the DME face-to-face encounter final rule. Any deviation from these requirements could result in a denial of reimbursement by a CMS contractor during an audit or prepayment review.. If you have any questions regarding the DME face-to-face encounter rule, other DME billing rules, or any other health law questions, please contact an experienced health law attorney at Wachler & Associates at (248) 544-0888.