Liquid oxygen:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

YARMOUTH, Maine--Providers are even more reluctant to service patients who use liquid oxygen systems under the new 36-month cap, they reported recently.

Some providers say they’re now turning away new patients on liquid oxygen. As for existing patients: They’re trying to switch them to other providers.

“We’ve given up some of our patients on liquid oxygen,” said Terry Luft, president of Central Medical Equipment in Harrisburg, Pa. “Bad business isn’t good business.”

For years, providers have been moving away from liquid oxygen systems. It’s a costly modality, they say, that requires more frequent deliveries and service visits than gaseous systems, especially portable oxygen concentrators (POCs).

With reimbursement now capped at 36 months, that’s truer than ever, providers say.

“I introduced liquid oxygen to this area, but I don’t do it anymore,” said Edward Eubanks, one of the owners of Charlotte Respiratory Solutions in Charlotte, N.C. “It’s too labor intensive. We’ve been transitioning to POCs. Liquid is a thing of the past.”

There are still upsides to providing liquid oxygen, some providers argue. For example: Medicare pays providers two refill fees for liquid oxygen (one for the stationary unit and one for the portable unit) and some Medicaid programs pay providers more for liquid refills than gas refills.

Additionally, some doctors prefer liquid oxygen systems for certain patients, especially those who require high liter flows.

“We’re probably having more difficulty than before providing liquid oxygen, but we’re always going to try to provide the patient with the most appropriate system,” said Raul Lopez, director of operations for Bayshore Dura Medical in Miami Lakes, Fla.