Invacare: Bush gives new O2 technology thumbs up

Sunday, February 11, 2007

WASHINGTON - While President Bush has proposed reducing the cap on oxygen reimbursement from 36 to 13 months, high-level administration officials say that cut would not apply to transfilling and portable concentrators--so-called "new technology." Additionally, officials indicated they would not oppose efforts to repeal the transfer of ownership of oxygen equipment to Medicare beneficiaries following the cap.

Invacare officials reported those new developments last week, following discussions with administration and legislative staffers about the intent of the president's new budget proposals.

"The government has made it clear that it is going after new technology that is patient friendly and saves the taxpayer money," said Lou Slangen, Invacare's senior vice president of worldwide market development. "They want to get out of paying for oxygen content."

Walt Gorski, AAHomecare's vice president of government affairs, said he did not have first hand information, but he has heard a rumor that new oxygen technology would be exempt from the president's proposed reimbursement cut.

The move to exempt new technology falls in line with Medicare's 2007 reimbursement for home oxygen therapy. Medicare now pays $250 a month for transfilling and portable oxygen concentrators. It pays $230 a month for traditional technology--a stationary concentrator and portable tanks. The additional $20 is an incentive for providers to invest in the new technology, which has a higher acquisition cost but promises to reduce a provider's overall costs by decreasing deliveries. The technology also offers beneficiaries unprecedented freedom by allowing them to produce their own ambulatory oxygen.

While certainly a boon for Invacare and other manufacturers who offer this new technology, the industry still opposes reducing the cap on traditional technology to 13 months. That is merely an arbitrary number that "doesn't make sense," said Cara Bachenheimer, Invacare's vice president of government relations.

In addition to having no clinical foundation, reducing the cap on traditional technology to 13 months without giving providers time to transition to the new technology would prove disastrous, Bachenheimer said.

When it comes to repealing the transfer of equipment title, the industry has "a good shot," she said.

"You don't have to spend much time explaining to members of Congress about frail seniors being responsible for maintaining complex medical equipment--the light bulb goes off," she added.

The president's budget proposal is just the first step in the federal budget process. Both the Senate and House of Representatives must pass a budget and then agree on a compromise that they send to the president to sign.