Industry heavyweights form oxygen council

Sunday, August 6, 2006

WASHINGTON - With CMS's proposal to significantly revamp oxygen reimbursement still fresh, 11 of the leading oxygen providers and manufacturers in the United States have come together to form the Council for Quality Respiratory Care. Their goal: work with policymakers "to facilitate a deeper understanding of the clinical and operational complexities associated with the provision of home oxygen therapy."

In its first public statement, released last week, the council stated: "We are concerned that (CMS's proposal) to overhaul Medicare's payment system for home oxygen therapy will have a negative impact on providers' ability to assure access to the level of care and services beneficiaries expect and deserve."

Members of the council are Pacific Pulmonary, Praxair, Respironics, Rotech, Sunrise Medical, Airsep, Air Products, American HomePatient, Apria, Invacare and Lincare.

The plan to revamp oxygen reimbursement proposes to reduce payment for stationary oxygen concentrators from about $200 to $177 per month. CMS proposes the changes go into effect Jan. 1, 2007.

The council stated its willingness to work with CMS and Congress to evaluate the proposal in the context of other significant policy changes, including competitive bidding and the 36-month cap on Medicare oxygen reimbursement.

"Viewing each of these new policies in isolation is ill-advised and could have negative consequences on patients that are unintended," the council stated.

Quality home oxygen can keep patients who have multiple and changing therapy needs stable and living independently in the home setting, according to the council. It points to a government study that shows long-term use of oxygen can reduce patient hospitalizations and the length of acute care stays. The study, conducted in 2004 by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, shows that long-term oxygen therapy reduces the frequency of hospitalization and the number of hospital days.