BIRMINGAM, Ala. (April 9, 2020)—Due to the novel COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is removing the non-invasive ventilators (NIV) product category from Round 2021 of the Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics, and Supplies (DMEPOS) Competitive Bidding Program. 

The move was hailed by home medical equipment (HME) advocates, who have been pushing Washington to make the change since the Round 2021 bid was announced. That's the first time Medicare included NIVs--which are used with a mask rather than with a tracheostomy tube--in the competitive bidding program. 

Now, any Medicare-enrolled DMEPOS supplier can furnish any of the types of ventilators covered under the Medicare program. 

In a release issued Thursday afternoon, CMS said it made the decision in response to the coronavirus crisis, Pres. Trump's invocation of the Defense Production Act and public concerns about access to ventilators. 

There will be no competitive bidding contracts awarded for the NIV product category in Round 2021. For Round 2021 bidders whose only bid in a competitive bidding area or areas, (CBA) was for the NIV product category, the bid surety bond for the applicable CBA does not meet the forfeiture conditions and will not be collected by CMS. CMS will issue appropriate notice to the applicable bidders and sureties.  

Advocates had taken several approaches as they pushed CMS to remove NIVs from the bidding process, including working through legislation; support came from a broad range of groups, including the American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare), the National Association for Homecare and Hospice, the American Lung Association and the U.S. COPD Coalition. A House sign-on letter on the topic garnered at least 180 signatures, and its Senate counterpart had at least 38. Late in 2019, Congress passed the Safeguarding Medicare Access to Respiratory Therapy Act (SMART Act) to delay inclusions of ventilators in competitive bidding for five years, and creating an expert panel to help develop Medicare coverage policies for at-home ventilators. 

"CMS is making the right call at the right time in removing non-invasive vents from the next round of competitive bidding," AAHomecare President and CEO Tom Ryan said in a statement Thursday. "This decisive action will help maintain patient access to these essential devices both during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. The HME community is doing all we can to provide effective care and reduce the extraordinary burdens hospitals are facing, and CMS is helping us achieve that mission through both this important policy change and through provisions in the recent COVID-19 Interim Final Rule."

If you have any questions, please call the Competitive Bidding Implementation Contractor (CBIC) customer service center at (877) 577-5331 between 9 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. prevailing Eastern Time, Monday through Friday.