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TRICARE Policy Manual 6010.60-M, April 1, 2015
Other Services
Chapter 8
Section 2.1
Durable Equipment (DE): Basic Program
Issue Date:  December 29, 1982
Revision:  C-119, November 1, 2023
Level II Codes E0100 - E1900, E0250 - E0270, E0290 - E0297, E0301 - E0304, K0001 - K0547, K0553, K0554
2.1  DE, which is a medically necessary and appropriate item, ordered by a TRICARE authorized individual professional provider for the specific use of the beneficiary, and which complies with the following DE definition and coverage criteria is cost-shared. A TRICARE authorized individual professional provider (i.e., a physician, a dentist, or any TRICARE authorized allied health care professional as described in 32 CFR 199.6(c)(3)(ii) and (c)(3)(iii)) may order or prescribe DE when acting within the scope of their license or certification, including the following:
•  Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPMs).
•  Doctors of Optometry (ODs).
•  Physician Assistants (PAs).
•  Clinical Nurse Specialists (CNSs) when recognized by the TRICARE Program as:
•  Certified Nurse Practitioners (CNPs),
•  Certified Nurse Midwives (CNMs), or
•  Certified Psychiatric Nurse Specialists (CPNSs).
•  Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs).
•  Licensed Physical Therapists (PTs).
•  Licensed and Registered Occupational Therapists (OTs).
2.2  DE is defined in 32 CFR 199.2 (see the TRICARE Operations Manual (TOM), Appendix A).
3.0  Coverage Criteria
3.1  Covered items provided to a beneficiary as DE includes the following:
•  Hospital beds.
•  Iron lungs.
•  Durable Medical Equipment (DME).
•  Wheelchairs.
•  Cardiorespiratory monitor under conditions specified in Section 2.2.
3.2  A covered DE is provided on a rental or purchase basis.
3.2.1  Coverage of DE is based upon the price most advantageous to the Government, taking into consideration the anticipated duration of the medically necessary need for the equipment and current price information for the type of item.
3.2.2  The cost analysis includes a comparison of the total price of the item as a monthly rental charge, a lease-purchase price, and a lump-sum purchase price and a provision for the time value of money at the rate determined by the United States (U.S.) Department of Treasury.
3.3  A prescribed item of DE that provides the medically appropriate level of performance and quality for the beneficiary’s medical condition present is supported by adequate documentation, as defined in 32 CFR 199.2. Luxury, deluxe, immaterial, or non-essential features, which increase the cost of the item relative to a similar item without those features, based upon industry standards for a particular item at the time the equipment is prescribed or replaced for a beneficiary, are not authorized. Only the “base” or “basic” model of equipment (or more cost-effective alternative equipment) is covered, except as authorized in paragraphs 3.6, 3.8, or 4.1.
3.4  The item of DE is prescribed for a use consistent with required U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved labeling for the item. When prescribed use of an item appears to be extraordinary, a signed statement from the manufacturer that a specific medical device is FDA approved for such a use is adequate evidence that the requirement of FDA approval is met.
3.5  The item of DE is not otherwise excluded by the regulation and policy (i.e., those found in 32 CFR 199.4(g), to include communication devices other than those allowed in Chapter 7, Section 23.1, eyeglasses, exercise/relaxation/comfort devices, comfort or convenience items).
3.6  DME is DE (see paragraph 2.2) that is medically appropriate as defined in 32 CFR 199.2 (see the TOM, Appendix A).
DME Customization. Customization of DME (i.e., equipment designed permanently to preclude the use of such equipment by another individual) owned by a beneficiary, and any accessory or item of supply for any such equipment, may be covered as determined by the Director (or designee) to be essential for:
•  Achieving therapeutic benefit for the patient;
•  Making the equipment serviceable; or
•  Otherwise assuring the proper functioning of the equipment.
3.7  Hospital beds (e.g., a manual or electric fixed height, variable height, semi-electric, heavy duty extra wide, extra heavy duty) are covered when medically necessary.
•  Accessories for hospital beds are also covered when medically necessary.
3.8  Wheelchairs, which otherwise meet the DE definition in paragraph 2.2, are covered to provide medically appropriate basic mobility.
3.8.1  Electric wheelchairs. An electric wheelchair, or TRICARE approved alternative to an electric wheelchair (e.g., scooter), may be provided in lieu of a manual wheelchair to provide basic mobility. Benefits are not extended for the use of both an electric-powered, cart-type vehicle and an electric wheelchair during the same period of time.
3.8.2  Lifts. A vehicle lift, which otherwise meets the requirements of paragraph 3.3 and all other applicable provisions of this policy, may be covered when necessary to transport an otherwise authorized wheelchair (or an approved alternative). Coverage is limited to the basic model lift and must be a temporary (non-permanent/transferable) lift that transports the wheelchair itself (or an approved alternative).  Labor charges are allowed to cover only the installation of the allowable vehicle wheelchair lift.  The TRICARE Program does not cover transportation of beneficiaries, including to and from medical appointments, except for ambulances when medical care is provided to the individual in transit. A lift may be authorized solely to transport the wheelchair so that a traveling beneficiary has “basic” mobility once at his or her destination.  Vehicle conversions are excluded. That is conversions such as but not limited to, raising the roof, widening the door, or permanent attachments installed (e.g., items that are non-transferable to another vehicle). Purchases and conversions of personal vehicles for a wheelchair bound beneficiary fall outside the scope of the TRICARE medical benefits and, therefore, are excluded.  The TRICARE Program’s allowable charge is based upon the basic (or standard) model lift and authorized installation fees. Lifts beyond the basic (or standard) model required for transport of an authorized wheelchair are excluded from TRICARE coverage and are not be considered in determining the TRICARE allowable costs. Beneficiaries who choose a lift other than the basic (or standard) model (i.e., luxury/deluxe) are responsible for the costs above and beyond the allowable amount of the basic lift. In such a case, the beneficiary is responsible for submitting sufficient information regarding the otherwise authorized basic model lift and costs of installation along with the itemized costs of the luxury/deluxe model and installation costs.
Note:  Refer to paragraph 4.0 for TRICARE description of “any item of DE beyond the basic/standard model.”
3.8.3  Modifications of wheelchairs. Medically appropriate modifications (i.e., slight or small changes or alterations) to the wheelchair (or an approved alternative) to accommodate a particular physiological or medical need are covered when necessary to provide basic mobility and to allow proper use of the wheelchair. When an otherwise covered wheelchair requires substantial modification, or is uniquely built to meet the special needs of a beneficiary, for basic mobility and proper use of the wheelchair, coverage is provided only under a lump-sum purchase or rental-purchase agreement resulting in the beneficiary owning the modified wheelchair.
3.9  Repairs. Benefits are allowed for repair of beneficiary-owned DE when necessary to make the equipment functional because of reasonable wear and usage and the manufacturer’s warranty has expired, but only on the condition that the repair cost is less than the replacement cost. Coverage includes the use of a temporary replacement item provided during a reasonable period of repair.
3.10  Replacements. Benefits are allowed for replacement of beneficiary-owned DE with documentation that the DE is lost or stolen and not otherwise covered by another insurance (such as a homeowner’s policy). Replacement of beneficiary-owned DE is also allowed when the item is not functional due to normal wear, accidental damage, a change in the beneficiary’s condition, or the device has been declared adulterated by the FDA. (Exceptions exist for prosthetic devices; see Section 4.1 for more information.)
Note:  Replacement is subject to review of documentation supporting why the current DE item is no longer usable/repairable and that the replacement cost is less than the repair cost.
Note:  Replacement equipment is allowed only upon a new order or prescription by a TRICARE authorized individual professional provider with an explanation of the medical need.
3.10.1  When a rented item of DE is lost or stolen, the supplier shall use modifier RA to notify the TRICARE contractor that the item has been lost or stolen, and a replacement item is being provided. Payment for the original rented item of DE that was lost or stolen is the contractual responsibility of the supplier.
3.10.2  The TRICARE Program will not continue to pay rental fees on equipment that has been lost or stolen. Once the medically necessary DE has been replaced by the supplier and provided to the beneficiary, rental fees for the replacement item shall resume based upon the continuous use provision, if applicable.
3.11  An item of DE which otherwise meets the DE benefits requirement that is essential to provide a fail-safe in-home life-support system, or that replace in-like-kind an item of equipment that is not serviceable because of normal wear, accidental damage, a change in the beneficiary’s condition, has been declared adulterated by the FDA, or is being, or has been recalled by the manufacturer, is not considered duplicate and, therefore is covered.
Note:  For the purpose of this policy, “duplicate” means an item of equipment that meets the definition of DE and serves the same purpose as an item of DE previously cost-shared by the TRICARE Program. For example, various models of a stationary oxygen concentrator with no significant differences are considered duplicates, whereas stationary and portable concentrators are not considered duplicates of each other because the latter is intended to provide a beneficiary with mobility outside the home. Another example is an electric wheelchair, which otherwise meets the definition of DE would not be duplicative of a manual wheelchair previously cost-shared by the TRICARE Program in that the electric wheelchair provides independent mobility not provided by the manual wheelchair.
3.12  Mobile Medical Applications (MMAs), Digital Therapeutics, and Sensors
3.12.1  MMAs, also known as mHealth apps, software-as-a-medical device, and digital therapeutics, are applications that operate using a smartphone, tablet, smart watch, or other mobile platform; are designed to benefit an individual’s health or wellness; and either meet the definition of a medical device, are an accessory to a medical device, or transform a mobile platform into a medical device.
3.12.2  MMAs must meet all of the following criteria to be eligible for TRICARE coverage:
•  Meet TRICARE’s definition for DME in 32 CFR 199.2 and all requirements for coverage under TRICARE’s DME policy as described in this manual section.
•  Be determined by the Defense Health Agency (DHA) to be proven safe and effective according to the hierarchy of reliable evidence, as described in 32 CFR 199.2 and 32 CFR 199.4, and listed as eligible for coverage in paragraph 3.12.5.
•  Be condition-specific (meaning they must treat a specific health condition rather than support an individual overall health and wellness), be medical in nature as defined in 32 CFR 199.2, and be medically or psychologically necessary.
•  Be prescribed by a TRICARE-authorized provider acting within the scope of their license. Prescriptions are required annually for subscription-based MMAs.
•  Be approved or cleared by the FDA.
•  Comply with Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) requirements.
3.12.3  For MMAs that require a monthly subscription, the contractor shall conduct a medical necessity evaluation after three months and then every 12 months afterwards. For an annual subscription, the contractor shall conduct the evaluation annually.
3.12.4  Sensors And Connected Medical Devices  Sensors are technology designed to take biometric readings from patients and upload that information to a platform for use with an MMA. Sensors may include medical devices such as blood pressure monitors, thermometers, electrocardiograms, and blood glucometers, as well as non-medical equipment such as fitness trackers. Connected medical devices integrate with an mHealth app but do not, themselves, monitor the patient.  Sensors and connected medical devices must be consistent with existing regulations and policies for DME to be covered under the TRICARE Program.
•  Platforms that do not meet TRICARE’s definition of DE or DME, including smartphones, electronic tablets, personal computers, and smart watches, are excluded from coverage.  Covered MMAs that work with a covered sensor or connected medical device may not be separately reimbursed unless the MMA provides a medically necessary service independent from the covered sensor or connected medical device. For example, an MMA that operates with a covered Continuous Glucose Monitoring System (CGMS) that only provides a visualization of data from the CGMS is ineligible for coverage. Separate reimbursement for both the sensor or connected medical device and the MMA may only be provided if separate reimbursement is applied to all payers, including patients who purchase out of pocket; otherwise, separation of charges constitutes abusive charges in accordance with 32 CFR 199.9.  For sensors and connected medical devices that require an MMA to function (i.e., the sensor/medical device and MMA function as one unit), then both the equipment and the MMA must be eligible for coverage to receive reimbursement.  If an MMA meets coverage criteria, but the associated sensor or connected medical device does not meet TRICARE coverage criteria, no separate reimbursement may be provided for the sensor or connected medical device. For example, if TRICARE were to determine that an MMA was proven, but the MMA works as an application on a smartphone, TRICARE may cover the MMA but not the smartphone and/or associated data/voice plans.
3.12.5  MMAs are not covered under the basic benefit unless TRICARE determines that the MMA meets all criteria detailed under paragraph 3.12.2. MMAs that are eligible for coverage will be listed in this paragraph; all other MMAs are excluded from coverage. Currently, no MMAs meet TRICARE coverage criteria.
4.1  Upgraded DE (Deluxe, Luxury, or Immaterial Features)
4.1.1  Medically Necessary Upgrades. An upgraded item of DE, which otherwise meets the DE benefit requirement and is medically necessary, is covered if the prescription specifically states the medical reason why an upgrade is necessary. For example, the beneficiary does not have the physical strength or balance required to lift a standard walker and, therefore, one with wheels is required. Equipment lacking documentation of medical necessity for the deluxe, luxury, or immaterial feature device shall have the TRICARE allowed amount for the base model applied to the upgraded equipment, with the beneficiary responsible for the difference between the allowed amount for the base model and the provider’s billed charges. For a wheelchair, the upgrade must be required for the beneficiary to maintain basic mobility. See the TRICARE Reimbursement Manual (TRM), Chapter 1, Section 11 for pricing and payment policy.
4.1.2  If the beneficiary prefers to upgrade an item of DE, which otherwise meets the DE benefit requirements, the beneficiary is solely responsible for the cost that exceeds the cost of what the Government would pay for the standard equipment. The upgraded item must be within the range of services that are appropriate for the beneficiary’s medical condition (e.g., beneficiaries may upgrade from a standard manual wheelchair to a power wheelchair, when there is no medical objection from the physician, but not from a walker to a wheelchair).
4.2  Beneficiary Liability
4.2.1  When the beneficiary prefers to upgrade an item of DE, which otherwise meets the DE benefit requirements, the provider may collect the charges that exceed the cost of what the Government would pay for the standard equipment, only when the beneficiary is given written notice that the item has been (or may be) denied and agrees in writing, to be financially liable for the difference between the charges for the upgraded item, and the charges for the standard item. When the provider fails to provide written notice and receives written agreement from the beneficiary of financial liability, for network providers, the beneficiary is “held harmless” in accordance with the TOM, Chapter 5, Section 1, paragraph 3.5.1. For non-network providers, see Chapter 1, Section 4.1.
4.2.2  Beneficiaries are also liable for the repairs on the upgraded item/features.
Note:  Deluxe, luxury, or immaterial features are items of DE that are more expensive than the item that is medically necessary. Deluxe items include comfort or convenience features that enhance standard DE equipment, but are not considered medically necessary. Comfort and convenience items are defined as those optional items, which the patient may elect at an additional charge, but are not medically necessary in the treatment of a patient’s condition. These devices exceed what is medically necessary and increase the cost of the item to the Government relative to a similar item without those features.
5.1  DE for a beneficiary who is a patient in a type of facility that ordinarily provides the same type of DME item to its patients at no additional charge in the usual course of providing its services is excluded.
5.2  DE that is available to the beneficiary from a Uniformed Services Medical Treatment Facility (USMTF).
5.3  An item of DE that has been lost or stolen (except as provided in paragraph 3.10), or for an item under warranty, or when a DE is damaged while using the equipment in a manner inconsistent with its common use.
5.4  DE with luxury, deluxe, immaterial, or non-essential features, which increase the cost of the item relative to a similar item without those features, based upon industry standards for a particular item at the time the equipment is prescribed or replaced for a beneficiary. (See paragraph 4.0 for Policy Consideration.)
5.5  Exercise, relaxation, comfort, sporting items, or sporting devices. Exercise equipment, to include wheelchairs and items primarily and customarily designed for use in sports or recreational activities, spas, whirlpools, hot tubs, swimming pools health club memberships or other such charges, or items.
5.6  Repairs of deluxe, luxury, or immaterial features of DE (except as provided in paragraph 3.9),
5.7  Repairs of DE damaged while using the equipment in a manner inconsistent with its common use.
5.8  Maintenance agreement.
5.9  Routine periodic servicing, such as testing, cleaning, regulating, and checking which the manufacturer does not require be performed by an authorized technician.
5.10  Duplicate items of otherwise allowable DE to be used solely as a back-up to currently owned or rented equipment, except as provided in paragraph 3.11.
5.11  DE must be considered durable (i.e., withstands repeated use). Therefore, DE does not include expendable items (e.g., incontinent pads, diapers, ace bandages). Such items are excluded from DE coverage. Refer to Section 6.1 for policy regarding supplies and dressings (consumables).
5.12  Non-medical equipment (e.g., humidifier, electric air cleaners, exercycle, safety grab bars, training equipment). See 32 CFR 199.4.
5.13  Beds that are not medical in nature and used for comfort or convenience (e.g, power or manual lounge beds, sleep-number beds, ordinary beds typically sold as furniture) are excluded.
September 1, 2005.
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