Casualties of war

Friday, March 31, 2006

March marked the third year that the United States has been at war in Iraq. For most of those three years, other than our military and their families, few in this country have sacrificed in any significant way. The economy has done well and the stock market has gone up. Real estate prices have soared. Lawmakers have added an expensive Medicare drug benefit. The Bush Administration didn't raise taxes to pay for the war effort; taxes have been cut. Of course, that leads to an annual budget deficit of about $400 million, and that doesn't include the nearly $100 million that will be spent on the war this year.
Vice President Dick Cheney once said that budget deficits don't matter. Well, based on the recent Deficit Reduction Act and President Bush's FY2007 budget proposal, it appears Cheney was wrong. The HME industry now knows this better than anyone. All you have to do is look at the recent capping of oxygen at 36 months and the president's proposal to reduce that cap to 13 months. The HME industry and its beneficiaries, among others on the home front, are now being asked to sacrifice for the war effort and Washington's irresponsible, spendthrift ways.
There's nothing wrong with sacrificing for the greater good. But when government cuts without any sense of consequence, it's sort of like, well, invading a foreign country without any exit strategy. The result is chaos and unnecessary sacrifice, even death.
Why should anyone think that capping Medicare's oxygen reimbursement will produce a different result? Beneficiaries certainly don't. Among other things, they see giving equipment to an elderly beneficiary at the end of the cap as a dangerous proposition. You've heard it before, but we're going to say it again: Providers must work together to bring some reasonableness to Medicare's reimbursement for oxygen. Work with AAHomecare, your state association, Northwood, The VGM Group, The MED Group or any other industry organization you feel comfortable with. Most importantly, involve your patients. Tell them to voice their concerns by contacting their elected representatives.
The war in Iraq has already produced 2,300 American casualties. There's no need to start adding Medicare beneficiaries to that list.