Champion of O2 bill loses in primary

Thursday, August 31, 2006

WASHINGTON - The industry lost a champion last month when U.S. Rep. Joe Schwarz, R-Mich., was defeated in Michigan's Republican primary.
Schwarz lost to conservative challenger Tim Walker, a former state lawmaker and conservative Republican who earned 53% of the vote. In his concession speech, Schwarz, a moderate Republican, blamed his defeat on a low turnout of moderate voters and his refusal to "pander to (arch-conservatives)."
Michael Reinemer, AAHomecare's vice president for communications and policy, said the industry would move forward with the H.R. 5513, the bill Schwarz introduced in May to repeal the 36-month cap on oxygen.
"Bottom line, it's a huge disappointment, but it's not going to slow us down," said Reinemer. "Schwarz will serve throughout the 109th Congress and if the bill doesn't succeed this year, I'm sure it will be reintroduced next year."
Reinemer said H.R. 5513 continued to gather momentum during the August recess.
"We're hearing of verbal commitments," he said. "The bill continues to gain co-sponsors."
Reinemer said there was a good pool of candidates that could step into Schwarz's role once he leaves office, including fellow physician Tom Price, R-Ga., who introduced the oxygen bill with Schwarz, along with five other co-sponsors.
"We have definitely lost a champion, but part of our job is to build and develop champions every day," said Reinemer. "We have about 535 potential champions out there."