Don't trick oxygen patients, CMS warns

Sunday, November 2, 2008

BALTIMORE - Providers can't just switch patients from one oxygen modality to another at their free will, CMS officials said during last week's Open Door Forum.

CMS official Laurence Wilson said he has received several calls from beneficiaries in Arizona who said their HME providers told them that Medicare would no longer cover liquid oxygen and they had to switch them to concentrators.

"That's untrue and it's illegal," said Wilson. "We are going to address those situations, continue to monitor them and take corrective action."

Current federal regulations prohibit providers from switching oxygen modalities during the 36-month rental period. Exceptions to the rule include physicians ordering different equipment or beneficiaries choosing to upgrade.

Also during the forum, CMS official Sandra Bastinelli clarified the agency's list of professionals who are exempt--for now--from accreditation. Those professionals include physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, physician assistants, nurses and several others.

"There may have been a misunderstanding," she said. "We never said those exemptions were permanent. We will address those professionals in proposed rulemaking in 2009."