CMS to cover hyperbaric oxygen therapy for diabetics

Friday, January 31, 2003

WASHINGTON - CMS announced in a December program memo that it would cover hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBO) for the treatment of diabetic wounds beginning April 1.

According to the memo, CMS will cover HBO for the treatment of diabetic wounds of the lower extremities in patients who meet three criteria: The patient has type I or type II diabetes and a lower extremity wound that’s due to diabetes; the patient has a wound classified as Wagner grade III or higher; and the patient has failed an adequate course of standard wound therapy.

In HBO, patients with wounds on the lower extremities lay in a large chamber or insert their foot or lower leg into a portable chamber, and the chamber pressures the wounds with oxygen, stimulating blood flow and healing.

Specialty providers contacted by HME News said they’re not that familiar with HBO, nor do they have immediate plans to provide the therapy in their shops, even now that CMS has decided to cover it. Although the providers sell diabetic and wound care supplies, they said HBO seems like too much of an intensive service.

“You’d need someone with experience working with the chamber, maybe even someone who’s certified,” said one provider. “Then you’d probably need a dedicated area or room to do the therapy, like you need a room for people to try on compression hosiery.

“It’s more than a DME provider wants to do,” he said.

Providers said a more natural place for HBO is in an acute-care setting, such as a hospital-based wound care center, or a clinic. HME