Providers to CMS: Those warranties might not transfer

Sunday, March 18, 2007

WASHINGTON - Last week's Open Door Forum yielded little useful information, but it did highlight one important question: Just who is responsible for maintaining equipment once ownership passes to the beneficiary?

February marked the start of equipment transfers from providers to patients under the 13-month cap rental on DME, but apparently some practical considerations--like repairs--have yet to be figured out.

The question arose when a caller who works with Medicare beneficiaries asked if there were any rules in place requiring suppliers to provide ongoing service and maintenance for equipment once the title transfers to beneficiaries.

"If the beneficiary has purchased the item, the supplier that they purchased the item from is in no way bound to provide service on that item," said CMS's Joel Kaiser. "Of course, all manufacturers' and suppliers' warranties would apply. (But) if a warranty does not cover repairs or servicing, then Medicare pays for the reasonable and necessary maintenance and service."

To that, another caller responded: "In light of what was just referred to as the warranty on patient-owned equipment, are you aware that both Invacare and Sunrise said once ownership is transferred that there is no more warranty?"

"I am now," said Kaiser.

"I thought you ought to be," said the caller. "If I buy something that has a three-year warranty and somebody caps out in 13 months, there is no warranty left."

On Friday, Sunrise responded with a release stating that it has not changed its warranty criteria for capped rental items as a result of recent policy--for now.

"In light of recent regulatory developments, it is likely that all manufacturers are evaluating the impact to their existing warranty policies," said Genevieve Dubuc, vice president of marketing North America, in the release.

In an interview with HME News last December, Invacare officials stated that its warranties will not transfer to beneficiaries when the title does.

"Consumers do not have the staff, the regulatory oversight or the resources to accomplish the necessary inspections and repairs to support products in the same fashion," stated the officials. "When a provider owns a product, they comply with the warranty by maintaining the product and preserving its value. Providers have professional staff to do this."