As reported in Sleep Review, last week Medicare (actually the Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee) met to decide the future of sleep medicine:
On September 12, industry leaders with varying positions about adopting home testing for the diagnosis of OSA gathered to present their opinions to a Medicare Evidence Development & Coverage Advisory Committee (MedCAC) panel. Based on the content of the meeting, the panel will make a recommendation to CMS about the future of home testing.
Earlier this year, the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery (AAO-HNS) submitted a formal request to CMS to revisit its national coverage determination (NCD) to not reimburse patients for positive airway pressure therapy if their sleep apnea was diagnosed with any form of testing other than in-laboratory polysomnography (PSG).
The AAO-HNS letter triggered the home testing debate...
rest of sleep review quote deleted at their request.
The MedCAC panel recommendation is expected to be out December 14, 2007, when the proposed decision memo is due.
Currently a polysomnogram (sleep study) performed in a sleep lab is required by CMS (medicare) to cover the purchase of a CPAP machine, the most common treatment for obstructive sleep apnea. Usually another sleep study, a CPAP titration (in which the CPAP settings are adjusted), is performed before CPAP is prescribed.
If CMS approves home testing for the diagnosis of sleep apnea, it will be disastorous for sleep labs that are currently in operation. Most private insurance companies follow CMS guidelines, and there will be a drastic drop in the number of sleep studies performed. Many sleep labs will close. It takes a lot of money to keep a sleep lab going, the typical yearly overhead (technician costs, equipment, rent) for a sleep lab is approximately $100,000 per bed, and much of this expensed is fixed.
Home testing, in my opinion, will be bad for patients. Sleep apnea will be less accurately diagnosed. CPAP will be titrated inadequately, and patients will get poorer results with CPAP.
I don't think that CMS is going to make the change, though. The final decision is expected March 14, 2008