Baucus' staff wants more numbers

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

HELENA, Mont. - In its attempt to reach out to U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., the new chairman of the powerful Finance Committee, the Big Sky Association of Medical Equipment Suppliers appears to be back to square one. During a Dec. 8 conference call with his staff, members of the association learned that Baucus has appointed a new healthcare aide.
"I think he's revamping his office," said Peggy Michalsky, vice president of Big Sky and general manager at Juro's Home Medical in Billings, Mont. "Basically, we have to start over."
Michalsky and other Big Sky members were encouraged, however, when they learned that Baucus' new healthcare aide may visit Billings or Missoula, Mont., in the early part of 2007 to discuss national competitive bidding and the 36-month cap on Medicare oxygen reimbursement.
Big Sky members have been unable to get commitments from Baucus or his staff that he will support the industry's efforts to lessen the blow of NCB and repeal the oxygen cap.
"They want more information," Michalsky said. "They want more numbers."
Big Sky members had entered the call armed with data from state hospitals that showed the value of home oxygen therapy: how many ER visits are related to respiratory conditions like COPD; how many of those visits end up in hospital stays; and how much those hospital stays cost. But Baucus' staff wanted additional data, such as the costs associated with becoming accredited.
"We're working on that," Michalsky said.