Bush budget proposes capping oxygen at 13 months

Sunday, February 12, 2006

WASHINGTON - It turns out the industry had good reason to be worried about President Bush's decision to focus on health care in his FY 2007 budget. The budget, released Feb. 1, calls for capping Medicare oxygen reimbursement at 13 months and eliminating first-month purchases for power wheelchairs.

In all, Bush's $2.77 trillion budget proposes cutting Medicare programs by $36 billion over the next five years.

Bush's proposal to cap oxygen reimbursement at 13 months "exacerbates" the recent approval of a proposal to cap oxygen at 36 months, according to AAHomecare.

"Forced transfer of ownership of oxygen equipment places unfair burdens and uncertainty on beneficiaries," the association stated in a release.

Last week, Bush signed into law a Deficit Reduction Act that included the 36-month cap.

The proposal to eliminate first-month purchases for power wheelchairs also concerns AAHomecare. More than 95% of beneficiaries purchase power wheelchairs in the first month, largely because they suffer from long-term conditions, stated Seth Johnson, chairman of the association's rehab council.

It's not the first time government officials have tried to eliminate first-month purchases for power wheelchairs. The Deficit Reduction Act originally included similar language, but six senators, including Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, crafted an amendment removing the language.

Congress must decide whether to pass legislation that contains provisions from Bush's budget, AAHomecare pointed out.

"In an election year, the additional changes proposed by the president for Medicare may be very difficult--especially after the knock-down fight over Medicare changes in the Deficit Reduction Act," AAHomecare stated in the release. "However, it will be important for the homecare community to be vocal about its opposition to these changes."

Unlike health care, Bush's budget proposes 7% and 8% increases for defense and homeland security, respectively.