Bush's budget delivers 'disastrous blow'

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Q. What impact will President Bush's FY 2007 budget proposal have on the durable medical equipment industry?
A. On Feb. 6, 2006, President Bush unveiled his FY 2007 budget proposal, which included $36 billion in proposed Medicare cuts. Approximately $7.4 billion would come from further cuts to oxygen and power wheelchairs. Under the oxygen proposal, the Medicare program would limit monthly rental payments to 13 months. The power wheelchair proposal is unclear, but it could make obsolete the first month purchase option. Either one of these cuts would be devastating for DME suppliers. Whether Congress will enact these provisions remains to be determined. The industry has done some great initial grassroots work to educate members of Congress about the ill effects of the current 36-month oxygen rental payment cap. With the president's drastic proposal, we should be able to significantly build upon our initial groundwork, engaging consumers and clinicians on this issue. Congress has previously rejected an 18-month cap on oxygen and the first month purchase option for power wheelchairs during negotiations of the Deficit Reduction Act.
The following steps must take place before any Medicare package becomes law:
- The President proposes a budget;
- House and Senate Budget committees develop their own budget resolutions;
- House and Senate committees develop legislative proposals to meet their goals;
- Both the House and Senate must pass their respective packages; and
- The House and Senate must resolve any differences in their respective packages.
This leaves our industry another window of opportunity to further educate Congress members on the detrimental effects this budget proposal would have on DME suppliers. Take advantage of this time to call and/or write letters to your Congress members to make sure they understand what a disastrous blow this proposal would be to the DME industry and your business.


Jim Stephenson is a rehab reimbursement specialist for Invacare. Reach him at (800) 333-6900 or jstephenson@invacare.com.