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More than 10,000 Medicare Patients in Montana Could Be Hit by Proposed Cuts to Home Oxygen Therapy; Access to Power Wheelchairs Would Also Decrease
Date:9/18/2007

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 10,000 Medicare beneficiaries in Montana who depend on medical oxygen therapy to treat severe respiratory conditions such as COPD may see their benefits jeopardized because of dramatic changes to oxygen policy brewing in Congress.

Earlier this summer, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a reimbursement cut to oxygen therapy that was included in H.R. 3162, titled "The Children's Health and Medicare Protection Act of 2007." The House cut oxygen because it was unwilling to increase tobacco taxes enough to pay for their changes to the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) and to Medicare.

The House bill would cut provider reimbursement for some oxygen systems and force patients in Medicare to assume ownership of oxygen equipment after 18 months of use rather than the 36 months under current law. The House bill faces a conference committee to hash out differences between the House and Senate versions of bills to reauthorize SCHIP. The conference committee will be made up of House and Senate members, including Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.).

The House bill would also eliminate the first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs in Medicare. Eliminating the first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs will reduce access for beneficiaries who suffer from long- term conditions such as multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig's disease, spinal cord injuries or paralysis. Analysis by the American Association for Homecare, which represents providers of home medical equipment and therapies, has shown that eliminating the first-month purchase option would result in the Medicare program paying more for power wheelchairs than Medicare currently pays.

Mike Calcaterra, president of the homecare providers' association for Montana, commented, "The Big Sky Association of Home Medical Equipment Suppliers is deeply concerned about the proposed changes. We would like t
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SOURCE American Association for Homecare
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