As investors consider potential investments, it is important to take into account the future impact of the recently passed health reform legislation. This blog post is part I of an itemization of 10 areas of the health reform bill that will likely have an impact on companies that manufacture medical devices and supplies. Some of these effects may be positive and some may be negative – but any investor in a device company should be aware of these areas of the health reform legislation. 

1.                  Expanded Coverage. The primary purpose of the Healthcare Reform Act was to expand coverage to a broader range of patients in the United States. In part, the Act accomplishes this expansion through a significant broadening of the eligibility criteria for enrollment in Medicaid.  Specifically, the Medicaid expansion enables most individuals with incomes of less than 133% of the Federal Poverty Level to enroll in the Medicaid program. Additionally, the mandatory insurance requirement and broader availability of health insurance through Health Benefit Exchanges will help to ensure that there are more patients that have access to health care. Increases in access to care may result in a positive near-term impact on some device manufacturers, as a result of the increased demand for medical services. 

2.                  Future Cuts? The Act does not contain significant changes to reimbursement methodologies or major decreases in reimbursement for healthcare providers. Therefore, Congress will likely be back at the table within the next three to ten years to address the cost issues that are attendant with the expansion of availability of healthcare services. It is unclear how Congress will address these cost issues, but one possibility is that it will decrease reimbursement in the future. Device manufacturers that are in high-tech, high-cost niches should begin to plan for potential reimbursement reductions in their sector. Additionally, it will be important for all device manufacturers to be able to differentiate their products as providing true clinical benefits instead of simply building a “better mousetrap.” 

3.                  Medical Device “Tax”. The Act included new “industry fees” or taxes that are applicable to pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturers, insurance companies, and pharmacy benefit managers. The medical device fee is effective 2012, and manufacturers of a medical devices will be required to pay 2.3% of the sales price for such device as an industry fee. The definition of a “taxable medical device” includes any device that is defined in Section 201(h) of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and is intended for human use. A limited number of medical devices, including eyeglasses, contact lenses, hearing aids and any other device that is determined by Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) to meet the “retail exception,” are exempted from this fee. Unlike the pharmaceutical fee, the medical device fee applies to all manufactures, regardless of size and revenue levels.

4.                  Comparative Effectiveness. The Act laid the groundwork for future inclusion of comparative effectiveness measures when CMS makes payment decisions by funding a new independent entity called the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (“PCORI”). The PCORI will study the effectiveness of various services, products and therapies and will issue reports regarding their effectiveness. The reports that are generated by PCORI may be relied on by CMS or other third party payors making decisions about payment, coverage and treatment. 

5.         Physician Payment Sunshine Act. The Healthcare Reform Act included the Physician Payment Sunshine Act. This will require covered manufacturers that make a payment or other transfer of value to a physician or teaching hospital to report such payments annually in electronic form. Payments or transfers of value include consulting fees, payments for clinical trial participation, charitable donations, royalties and a variety of payments that may be made to physicians and teaching hospitals. There are some payments that are exempted from the disclosure obligations. These exempted payments include annual aggregate payments to a recipient of less than one-hundred dollars and individual payments of less than ten dollars, payments that are made entirely through market research organizations, and the provision of samples to a physician or teaching hospital for the benefit of patients.