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Massive Cuts to Medicare Home Oxygen Therapy Benefit Taking Effect January 1 Creating Acute Anxiety Among Beneficiary and Provider Communities
Date:12/31/2008

27 Percent Funding Cuts in 2009 Will Reduce Payments for Home Oxygen Therapy to Less Than Half of 1997 Payment Rates

WASHINGTON, Dec. 31 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Americans nationwide prepare to celebrate the New Year, the home oxygen community is looking to 2009 with great unease due to significant Medicare policy changes that will present many challenges to beneficiaries and providers alike. On January 1, two new policies in the form of a 36-month cap on payments for home oxygen therapy and a 9.5 percent across-the-board payment cut will take effect, deeply impacting a community that cares for more than 1.5 million elderly and chronically ill patients.

Under the new 36-month cap, Medicare will stop payment for stationary home oxygen therapy equipment and related services after the beneficiary reaches the three year mark. Despite the discontinuation of payments after 36 months, providers will still be required to continue all servicing of patient needs and equipment including patient-generated, non-routine emergency home visits and routine replacement of disposable oxygen supplies, such as tubing and masks. Providers will also be responsible for ensuring that patients are appropriately serviced even if the patient moves out of the provider's service area within or following the first 36 months of service.

"The provider community is extremely committed to making every effort to meet patient needs and provide uninterrupted services," said Peter Kelly, Chairman of the Council for Quality Respiratory Care (CQRC). "However, it is difficult to comprehend how providers can maintain patient service levels on an uncompensated basis. Based on the magnitude of these cuts, the provider community cautions that service reductions may be unavoidable as a result of business failures or financial hardship and cause potential access problems for the vulnerable patient population we care for."


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SOURCE Council for Quality Respiratory Care
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