Bush's oxygen plan excludes 'new technology'

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

WASHINGTON - While President Bush has proposed reducing the cap on oxygen reimbursement from 36 to 13 months, high-level administration officials say that cut would not apply to transfilling and portable concentrators--so called "new technology." Additionally, administration officials indicated they would not oppose efforts to repeal the transfer of ownership of oxygen equipment to Medicare beneficiaries following the cap.
Invacare officials reported those developments last month, following discussions with administration and legislative staffers.
"The government has made it clear that it is going after new technology that is patient friendly and saves the taxpayer money," said Lou Slangen, Invacare's senior vice president of worldwide market development. "They want to get out of paying for oxygen content."
Walt Gorski, AAHomecare's vice president of government affairs, said he did not have firsthand information, but he has heard that new oxygen technology would be exempt from the proposed reimbursement cut.
The move to exempt new technology falls in line with Medicare's 2007 reimbursement for home oxygen therapy. Medicare now pays $250 a month for transfilling and portable oxygen concentrators. It pays $230 a month for traditional technology--a stationary concentrator and portable tanks.
While certainly a boon for Invacare and other manufacturers, the industry still opposes reducing the cap on traditional technology to 13 months. That is merely an arbitrary number that "doesn't make sense," said Cara Bachenheimer, Invacare's vice president of government relations.
When it comes to repealing the transfer of equipment title, the industry has "a good shot," Bachenheimer said.
"You don't have to spend much time explaining to members of Congress about frail seniors being responsible for maintaining complex medical equipment--the light bulb goes off," she added.