Congressmen seek support for oxygen bill

Sunday, June 18, 2006

WASHINGTON - The lead sponsors of a bill that would repeal the 36-month cap on Medicare oxygen reimbursement have sent a "Dear Colleague" letter to other members of Congress asking them for their support.

The cap was passed as part of the Deficit Reduction Act (DRA) earlier this year.

Rep. Joe Schwartz, R-Mich., and Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., have asked their colleagues to co-sponsor the Home Oxygen Patient Protection Act "to protect the nearly one million oxygen patients in the Medicare program who receive oxygen therapy in their homes."

In addition to repealing the cap, H.R. 5513 would restore ownership of oxygen equipment to providers. Currently, per the DRA, providers are required to transfer the title of equipment to beneficiaries after three years.

The letter reads:

"As physicians, we are writing you today to urge you to cosponsor HR 5513, the Home Oxygen Patient Protection (HOPP) Act. The HOPP Act aims to protect the nearly one million oxygen patients in the Medicare program who receive oxygen therapy in their homes.

As you may know, a provision that was added to the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 changes oxygen from continuous rental to a rent-to-purchase model so the beneficiary will be required to assume ownership of oxygen devices after 36 months of rental. Congress did not have any time to consider the impact of this policy through hearings or any other deliberative process before the vote.

Medical oxygen is a highly regulated drug that requires a prescription. A number of organizations, including the American Lung Association, have expressed serious concerns about the health and safety aspects of the new policy, which will require Medicare beneficiaries to own the complex oxygen equipment required for their therapy.

This very simple bill repeals the change in Medicare policy for oxygen therapy enacted in the DRA.

We are keenly interested in making Medicare more efficient and less costly. However, policy that affects treatment for Americans who require oxygen because they suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pulmonary fibrosis, lung cancer or other respiratory diseases must be considered from both a clinical as well as an economic perspective. Congress has not considered the clinical dimensions of this issue."