Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Obtaining Coverage for CPAP and CPAP titrations

Medicare and some insurance companies have strict criteria about covering the purchase of a CPAP machine for a patient. Here is my response to a question on the AASM discussion forums about getting CPAP and CPAP titrations covered for patients who have OSA/Upper airway resistance, but don't meet their insurance company's criteria for CPAP:

My understanding is that the MEdicare criteria (4% desat, etc), are for the coverage of the cpap machine. The actually cpap titration is covered if the attending feels it is medically necessary. So if the AHI (using 4% desat criteria for hypopneas) is less than 5, one approach would be to do a cpap titration-covered by Medicare- and then try to get a DME company to sell the pt a used, discounted cpap machine.

This approach also works with other insurance companies- usually diagnostic testing/titration is covered by a different department within the insurance company than DME. Though it may seem illogical, even insurance companies that have strict criteria for cpap machines will usually approve cpap titrations (at least in the state of Mississippi).

Update on Home Testing for OSA

Sleep Well and Live reports that home testing for OSA will not be covered in many states:

Effective April 1, 2008: “For a study to be reported as a polysomnogram, sleep must be recorded and staged and must be attended. Sleep studies should be performed in a hospital, sleep laboratory or by an Independent Diagnostic Testing Facility that is supervised by a physician (MD/DO) trained in analyzing and interpreting the recordings and should be attended by a trained technologist. Sleep studies performed in the home are not covered.”

The LCD affects the following primary geographic jurisdictions: American Samoa, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Guam, Hawaii, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Marina Islands, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York (with the exception of Queens County), Ohio, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The decline of physician-practice sleep labs

There are 3 basic business structures of sleep labs:
1. hospital-owned
2. independent diagnostic and testing facility (IDTF's)
3. extension of a physician practice

At the AASM Sleep Management course I went to in February, it was reported that business structure 3 comprised less than 5% of sleep labs. The differences between the 3 business structures can be complex, and I plan to talk about this more in future posts. To briefly illustrate the complexity, I will just mention at this time that physicians are often part-owners of IDTF's and hospital associated sleep labs. Physicians sometimes fully own an IDTF.

In my brief career in sleep medicine, the decline of stucture #3 has been a disturbing trend. Sleep Review Magazine reports on how a new interpretation of an old Florida law has led to severe restriction on this type of lab:

In responding to a request from Jacksonville Heart Center (Jax Heart), the State of Florida Board of Medicine finds that physicians of physician-owned labs must directly supervise sleep studies.
In its request, Jax Heart, a group practice comprised of 17 cardiovascular physicians, proposed to establish an eight-bed sleep center as part of its medical practice. The request stated, in part, “.... For sleep studies performed after normal business hours, a Jax Heart physician would be on-call and immediately available by phone."
.....the main issue with the request submitted by Jax Heart was whether the sleep center’s services were being conducted under the “direct supervision” of Jax Heart.
The State of Florida Board of Medicine stated, “If the Sleep Center does provide services under the direct supervision of Jax Heart, the Petitioner’s proposed arrangement does not constitute a ‘referral’ that is precluded by Section 458.053(5), Florida Statutes.

“We found that the law dictated that patients needing a sleep study would be supervised differently depending upon whether the lab was owned by a physician group rather than an IDTF/Hospital,” said Masters.
Ultimately, the Board found that Jax Heart would not be providing services under the “direct supervision” (meaning supervision by a physician who is present in the office suite and immediately available to provide assistance and direction throughout the time services are being performed), and that Jax Heart’s proposed referral of patients to its sleep center is precluded by Section 458.053(5), Florida Statutes.
“It is also important to note that the declaratory statement did not say that physicians are not able to own their own lab—rather that they must provide direct supervision for patient care in a sleep center,” Masters said. “Secondly, the Board reinforced that physician-owned sleep labs must only treat their patients in the sleep center. This provision would not change even if the Direct Supervision requirement was changed to be an exception.”

Read the entire decision
Basically, the state of Florida is requiring sleep labs that are an extension of a physician practice to have a physician present whenever sleep studies are run. This is a poorly written article; as I pointed out above, a physician can own all or part of an IDTF. There is a definite distinction between a physician-owned sleep lab and a sleep lab that is an extension of a physician practice.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

My Last Comment about Home Testing for OSA

This is my last comment about home testing for OSA, until CMS makes its final decision in March. I have previously extensively discussed the AASM's task force report on home testing, and its role in bringing about home testing for obstructive sleep apnea (click on the Home Testing or Portable Home Testing label below for more details).

Nic Butkov, the RPSGT guru, discusses another development that paved the way to home testing in this month's issue of SLEEP REVIEW:
It has been suggested by some that the new scoring manual is paving the way for portable, limited channel sleep studies and automated scoring. The manual does, in fact, present the respiratory scoring parameters apart from the rest of the polysomnogram, without discussing the relevance of viewing respiratory patterns within the context of the patient's sleep/wake physiology. The only reference to other PSG channels is made by the brief mention of arousal, as a possible scoring criterion for the alternative hypopnea definition and as a criterion for the optional scoring of RERAs. The lack of discussion regarding other PSG parameters creates the impression that respiratory events can be evaluated based solely on respiratory tracings and oximetry, without viewing the polysomnogram as a whole. This is unfortunate because without correlating respiratory patterns with the patient's physiological state, and evaluating their effects upon that state, the interpretation of respiratory events becomes largely a matter of guesswork.
So in addition to the Task Force report, the new American Academy of Sleep Medicine Scoring Manual also played a role in bringing about CMS approval of home testing for qualifying a patient for cpap therapy. Although the AASM claims it is going to work with regional Mediare carriers to limit home testing to board certified sleep specialists (wouldn't it be funny if some carriers excluded diplomates of the American Board of Sleep Medicine but instead required passing the new American Board of Internal Medicine test?), it is my opinion that most Medicare carriers will not limit the specialties that can perform home testing. The AASM has made its bed and now has to lie in it.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Respiratory Therapists Try to Take over Polysomnography in California

I previously posted on the attempt of respiratory therapists to take control over polysomnography in California.
The process is moving forward. As reported by Sleep Review Magazine,
Introduced by State Sen Jeff Denham (R-Merced), the “Polysomnographic Technologist Act” Senate Bill 1125 aims to prevent criminal abuse and ensure proper medical diagnosis, as well as ensure a standard of training and accountability for the profession.
"Hundreds and possibly thousands of unlicensed technicians are working with patients in vulnerable circumstances where most have not had a criminal background check and competency testing is optional. Failure to perform competently and protect the consumer holds little or no consequence for unlicensed personnel," said Stephanie Nunez, executive officer for the Respiratory Care Board of California.

The actual text of the bill is here. Some key parts of the bill:
"Board" means the Respiratory Care Board of California.

b) The failure of an employer to provide documents as required bythis section is punishable by an administrative fine not to exceedfifteen thousand dollars ($15,000) per violation. This penalty shallbe in addition to, and not in lieu of, any other civil or criminalremedies. 3818. The board shall issue, deny, suspend, place probationaryterms upon, and revoke licenses to practice polysomnography andpolysomnography-related respiratory care services.
The board shall determine the hours of credit tobe granted for the passage of particular examinations. 3819.5. The board may require successful completion of one ormore professional courses offered by the board, the AmericanAssociation for Respiratory Care, the California Society forRespiratory Care, or the National Board for Respiratory Care in anyor all of the following circumstances: (a) As part of continuing education. (b) Prior to initial licensure.
As I interpret it, this California bill would give respiratory therapists, through their board, the power to license sleep lab technicians and fine labs that hire technicians not licensed by their board. This law is a slap in the face to the majority of sleep technicians who are not respiratory therapists.

The Failure of the AASM Leadership

The Feb 15 issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine has an editorial on "Why CMS Approved Home Sleep Testing for CPAP Coverage", by Dr. Chediak, President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The editorial is a glaring whitewash of AASM's role in this debacle. A sample statement from this editorial is: "While there was variance in the degree of conviction, in general, the AASM, ACCP, and ATS testified against the indiscriminate use of HST" (HST= home sleep testing).
Dr. Chediak makes no mention of the AASM Task Force Report on Portable Monitors in the Diagnosis of Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This report, which came out in the middle of the CMS decision making process, basically came out in favor of home testing (when performed by sleep physicians in AASM-accredited sleep centers). After the task force report came out, the perception among CMS officials and the public was that the AASM had approved of home testing. After this task report came out, how could CMS not approve of home testing?
Valid arguements can be made in favor of HST. However for the AASM to initially come out against HST and then months later publish a task force report that was widely viewed as being an endorsement of HST is an incredible lack of leadership on the part of the AASM's Board of Directors.
I think that every member of the AASM Board of Directors who voted to approve the Task Force Report should resign.