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Home Oxygen Community Braces for Massive Cuts to Medicare's Home Oxygen Benefit Starting January '09
Date:12/3/2008

rom paying for needed supplies and for responding to patient-generated requests for non-routine services after 36 months. Administration officials chose not to exercise their authority to pay for disposable oxygen tubing and other supplies patients need every month for their oxygen therapy after 36 months of service. Additionally, Medicare will not pay for patient-generated and emergency requests for non-routine services patients may require after 36 months.

In response to the rule Kelly stated, "The CQRC maintains that CMS has dramatically undervalued the important role that home oxygen care plays in preventing costly beneficiary emergency room visits, acute care admissions and avoidable physician intervention." The rule also requires providers to ensure the availability of equipment and services even if a patient moves to a region where the provider does not operate and even if that move takes place after Medicare stops paying for services at 36 months.

While members of the CQRC are extremely committed to making every effort to meet patient needs, there is concern about their ability to keep services at pre-cut levels given the looming cuts. Home oxygen providers in all regions of the country have been forced to make operational adjustments, which include staff layoffs. More adjustments are anticipated once the full impact of cuts is felt in early 2009. "The oxygen benefit has for years included a wide range of non-equipment services that patients need, and providers cannot reasonably be expected to continue providing many of these services on an uncompensated basis. Now the key question is: How will these impending cuts affect service levels for beneficiaries after 36 months?" added Kelly.

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
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SOURCE Council for Quality Respiratory Care
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