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Methods to estimate and compare VA expenditures for assistive devices to Medicare payments.

Render ML, Taylor P, Plunkett J, Nugent GN. Methods to estimate and compare VA expenditures for assistive devices to Medicare payments. Medical care. 2003 Jun 1; 41(6 Suppl):II70-9.

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OBJECTIVE: To describe the methods used to estimate and compare Veterans Health Administration (VA) annual expenditures for assistive devices and their repair at six VA hospitals with payments for those same devices in the private sector. METHODS: Information about dispensed assistive devices and their costs was extracted from (1) the VA's National Prosthetic Patient Database, (2) each site's listing of the VA's Denver Distribution Center cost center in the Cost Distribution Jurisdictional Report, and (3) review of invoices for implanted prosthetics at each study site. We estimated private sector payments by applying Medicare geographically adjusted rates for purchases or rentals, where rates existed, or by inflating VA costs by 30%. RESULTS: The VA spent a total of $30.6 million for prosthetics at the six sites in fiscal year 1999, of which $14.2 million was for items captured in the National Prosthetic Patient Database, $3.4 million for the Denver Distribution Center, and more than $8.1 million for implants. Indirect VA costs were estimated at $4.8 million. Hypothetical private sector payments were estimated at $49.8 million. CONCLUSIONS: Unlike Medicare, VA both contracts to provide assistive devices (through a competitive bidding process) and dispenses devices it has purchased. This approach results in significantly lower expenditures, consistent with other reports. Generalizing these cost savings to other private or federal programs covering assistive devices requires further study.

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