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As Congress Debates Competitive Bidding Program, Home Oxygen Beneficiaries and Providers Left to Cope with 27 Percent Cut to Medicare Home Oxygen Benefit

Home Oxygen Care Leaders Hope to Move Policymakers to "Thoughtful Dialogue"

WASHINGTON, Feb. 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Members of Congress gather today to debate the merits of the Medicare Durable Medical Equipment, Prosthetics, Orthotics & Supplies (DMEPOS) competitive bidding program, home oxygen leaders call on legislators to carefully assess the impact repeated policy changes are having on beneficiary services and much needed service-oriented jobs. The home oxygen community is already absorbing the impact of two new policies that went into effect earlier this year, in the form of a 36-month cap on payments for home oxygen therapy and a 9.5 percent across-the-board payment reduction, totaling more than $845 million in reductions in 2009 alone. Congress must take into account the magnitude of these cuts and the potential challenges they will create for the more than 1.5 million Americans who depend on this benefit for improved quality of life and the thousands of health care workers who provide home oxygen care.

"As industry leaders serving tens of thousands of frail elderly, the CQRC asks policymakers to closely monitor the effects of these deep cuts on both beneficiaries and providers to ensure that patient access to essential home oxygen care is not compromised," said Peter Kelly, Chairman of the Council for Quality Respiratory Care (CQRC). "We look forward to working with lawmakers to create a thoughtful and lasting solution for the home oxygen therapy benefit that recognizes patient needs and services, sets high quality standards for providers and offers additional tools for combating fraud and abuse."

As background, on January 1, 2009, massive cuts to the Medicare home oxygen benefit took effect, sending a slow but growing tidal wave of change throughout the provider community. As a result of the cap, home oxygen providers no longer receive Medicare payment for patient-generated, non-routine emergency visits or needed oxygen supplies, such as oxygen tubing and masks, following 36 months of service. Given today's economy, no Medicare provider - within the oxygen community or not - could continue to maintain such service levels on an uncompensated basis.

Home oxygen therapy costs Medicare only dollars a day by allowing beneficiaries to receive care in their home, as opposed to more expensive institutional settings. Government studies demonstrate that long-term use of home oxygen therapy reduces hospitalizations and, in the event hospitalizations do occur, home oxygen therapy reduces the length of the hospital stay, saving taxpayer dollars. "Home oxygen community leaders welcome a thoughtful dialogue during the upcoming health care reform debate, where the merits of the Medicare home oxygen benefit as a cost-effective alternative to institutional care can be discussed and hopefully adopted," concluded Kelly.

The Council for Quality Respiratory Care, a coalition of the nation's leading home oxygen therapy providers and manufacturers representing nearly one half of the more than 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries who depend on the home oxygen benefit for independence and quality of life.

SOURCE Coalition for Quality Respiratory Care
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