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Unique Device Identifiers: Medicare Claims Should Include Implant IDs

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New findings from Medicare’s independent auditor indicate that faulty medical implants—such as cardiac pacemakers and artificial joints—are harming seniors and costing taxpayers billions of dollars. According to the Department of Health and Human Services inspector general, the solution is a step recommended by patient safety experts and the Food and Drug Administration: collecting device-identifying data in Medicare claims.

In a letter to Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), the inspector general wrote, “Collecting UDI [unique device identification] data on claims forms would add significant long-term value and benefits.” The auditor’s investigation finds that taking this step would not only help the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) improve care for beneficiaries, but would also strengthen Medicare’s program integrity, because the costs associated with defective devices could reach several billion dollars due to additional hospitalizations, surgeries, and other care.

While FDA and multiple groups of experts have called for this change, the inspector general indicates that, to date, CMS has not taken action or developed plans to support the policy.

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