AAH: 'Oxygen cap exceeds bounds of logic'

Sunday, March 19, 2006

WASHINGTON -- AAHomecare Chairman Tom Ryan earned a spot on the Wall Street Journal's prestigious opinion-editorial page last week with a letter to the editor opposing President Bush's proposal to cap Medicare oxygen reimbursement at 13 months.

The newspaper ran a story about the proposal in its Feb. 28 issue under the headline "Bush Proposes Rent-to-Own Rule for Elderly's Oxygen Equipment." The story quoted Mal Mixon from Invacare and Larry Higby from Apria Healthcare, as well as Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif., the face behind the recently passed 36-month oxygen cap.

In his letter, Ryan rallied for strengthening home care rather than dismantling it. The letter reads as follows:

Home Oxygen Rule Medically Inefficient
"Bush Proposes Rent-to-Own Rule for Elderly's Oxygen Equipment" (Politics & Economics, Feb. 28) hints at a harsh reality. The zeal to save money by pushing more responsibility onto patients, an ideal of the administration and congressional leaders, exceeds the bounds of logic and clinical sense when elderly respiratory patients are forced to assume ownership for medical oxygen equipment. Transferring this responsibility to frail seniors may not save a single dime if it results in emergency hospitalizations due to inadequate supervision of oxygen equipment and therapy.

About a million Medicare beneficiaries depend on medical oxygen in the home in order to breathe. Even though reimbursement for home oxygen under Medicare has been cut nearly 50% the past decade, the administration hopes to squeeze even more from this critical benefit, which provides home oxygen therapy to patients for a full year for substantially fewer taxpayer dollars than a single day in the hospital. As Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt has argued, home-based and community-based care is "radically more efficient" than institutional care settings. Let's put the rhetoric to work and strengthen homecare rather than dismantle it.