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Ukiah Home Oxygen Therapy Patients and Physicians Meet with Congressman Mike Thompson to Share Benefits of Quality Home Oxygen Care

Home Oxygen Community Praises Congressman for Formally Opposing Deep Cuts to Medicare's Home Oxygen Benefit

UKIAH, Calif., March 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Pacific Pulmonary Services - Ukiah Center, a provider of home oxygen and respiratory therapy equipment and services to more than 200 patients in Ukiah and the surrounding areas, today welcomed Representative Mike Thompson (CA-1st) to meet with patients, physicians and technicians to discuss the benefits of home oxygen therapy. The Medicare home oxygen benefit allows approximately 1.4 million patients nationwide to maintain independence and an improved quality of life by remaining at home instead of being required to relocate to expensive institutional settings for treatment. On hand to meet with Congressman Thompson and share his personal experience with home oxygen therapy was patient Mr. Arthur Kilgore of Ukiah as well as physicians, technicians and other members of the home oxygen community.

"Visiting Pacific Pulmonary and meeting patients like Mr. Kilgore brings home the importance of these life-giving services in our community," said Congressman Thompson. "We must do more to ensure these services are accessible and affordable to those who need them, and I'll continue to voice that concern in Congress."

Pacific Pulmonary Services (PPS) applauds the leadership Congressman Thompson demonstrated by recently signing a letter to the House Committee on Budget voicing bi-partisan opposition to reductions in this critical benefit. The letter, signed by 32 members of the U.S. House states, "We believe that further payment reductions this year, coming on top of several recent cuts and an estimated 20 percent reduction that will take effect over the next several months under current law, could jeopardize care for some patients and make benefit reform much more difficult to achieve in the future."

"The respiratory care community thanks Rep. Thompson for his efforts to prevent further funding cuts to Medicare's home oxygen benefit, which could jeopardize our ability to provide critical patient care services, as well as hindering progress toward more thoughtful benefit reform in the future," said Peter Kelly, President of PPS and Chairman of the Council for Quality Respiratory Care (CQRC). "Additional cuts in the oxygen benefit are likely to create barriers to quality care for patients and their caregivers, as well as present new challenges for providers who are already struggling with unprecedented recent cutbacks in this benefit."

In addition to addressing concerns regarding changes to the Medicare home oxygen benefit, Pacific Pulmonary Service patients and staff expressed concerns regarding the recent Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announcement about projected program reductions tied to Medicare's competitive bidding program. In a statement released by the non-profit Council for Quality Respiratory Care Kelly stated, "Changes stemming from new competitive bidding policies are more dramatic than anticipated, and the breadth of those changes should cause policymakers to carefully and thoughtfully assess the effects this restructuring is having on the health and well being of Medicare's respiratory patients before implementing additional changes."

The home oxygen community is currently braced for great uncertainty due to sweeping policy changes enacted by the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 and the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, both of which are taking effect during the coming year, and will cut benefits for home oxygen by more than $1.5 billion in 2009 and 2010. These changes will impact nearly 300,000 Americans, or 22 percent of the Medicare beneficiaries who rely on home oxygen for their home-based care.

"Changes to this benefit have the potential to influence quality and continuity of care for our patients, particularly in rural areas," said Bob Snee, Operations Manager. "Many of our patients depend on their home oxygen therapy to survive, so if Medicare does not provide funding for reliable oxygen services, their lives will be dramatically different."

"I am honored to meet with Congressman Thompson and thank him for his support," said Mr. Kilgore. "I have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure and can't imagine my life without the oxygen delivered regularly to my home and the security of knowing the PPS staff is always there to provide quality care. It allows me to be fully independent, to better manage my illness and prevent hospitalizations, to personally contribute to my community, and to spend time with my family and friends."

Home oxygen therapy costs the Medicare program $7.62 per day versus as much as $4,600 per day in the hospital. In 2002, there were 673,000 hospitalizations for Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) with an average length of stay of 5.2 days. A recent government study by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality shows that long term use of home oxygen therapy reduces hospitalizations and, when hospitalizations do occur, reduces the length of hospital stay.

Today, more than one million Medicare patients depend on the Medicare oxygen benefit for quality of care and quality of life in the home environment. The typical home oxygen Medicare beneficiary suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), is in her mid-70s, lives alone, and has physical limitations that prevent her from driving.

Pacific Pulmonary Services, a provider of home oxygen and respiratory medications equipment and services that care for more than 72,000 patients and employs more than 1000 associates nationwide, is the largest privately held provider of home oxygen and respiratory medications in the United States.

SOURCE Pacific Pulmonary Services
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