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Evaluate Your DME Situation First


Before you obtain a durable medical equipment supplier number, stop and make sure doing so is worthwhile for you, say experts. Here are some things you should do:

* Look at your volume and see whether you can obtain supplies cheaply enough to allow for a profit margin at the low rates that Medicare pays, advises Richard Papperman, owner of Cape Professional Billing in Cape May Court House, NJ. Often, a large DME company will buy supplies in bulk and keep their costs down.

* Figure out how many of your patients qualify for the DME benefit and look into how much you're likely to make per patient. "Unless you're in a heavily Medicare-populated area where you treat conditions that use a substantial amount of those kind of supplies for a substantial period of time, I can't imagine that it's ever gong to make sense to do this," cautions Joan Gilhooly, president of Medical Business Resources in Deer Park, IL.

* See if you can join together with other practices to form a buying group and lower your costs, Papperman suggests.

* Remember that any dressings or wound care you provide in your office are considered bundled into other procedures and not separately billable, notes Papperman. If the payor "considers it part of the wound care for the surgery, it's a freebie," he adds.

* If you're considering providing "hard" DME such as canes or walkers, understand Medicare's complex rules on rentals and repairs, Gilhooly urges.

* Compare the amount of profit per square foot your practice could make on DME with the per-foot profit margin you could gain from other services, Gilhooly adds.

If your practice already provides orthotics and braces, then adding other supplies to the mix may make sense, Gilhooly notes. But for most providers, obtaining a DME number may be more trouble than it's worth.