New O2 reg excites providers

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

WASHINGTON -- After years of waiting, HME suppliers are excited about a recent ruling by the Federal Aviation Administration that paves the way for respiratory patients to travel onboard commercial airlines with portable oxygen concentrators.
"We've been following this ruling for a while, and we're very excited about it," said Jill Spellman, president of Oxygen One in Waukesha, Wis., and a registered respiratory therapist. "We've been waiting for it. We have to and want to embrace this ruling."
According to the FAA ruling in July, respiratory patients will, for the first time, have the opportunity to travel onboard commercial airlines with portable oxygen concentrators during all phases of their flight, from take-off to landing. While the new ruling allows airlines to let patients travel with the concentrators, they are not required to do so. It rule took effect Aug. 11.
"This is a major victory for oxygen therapy patients," said Cheryl West, director of government affairs for the American Association for Respiratory Care. "Now that the rule is on the books, we need to contact the airlines and urge them to allow oxygen patients to bring their portable oxygen concentrators on flights."
At this point, only Inogen's Inogen One and AirSep's Lifestyle portable concentrators have received federal approval, but the FAA plans to develop generic performance standards for new products. Spellman said her company has already purchased the two approved concentrators, as has Klingensmith Health Care, which operates multiple locations in Pennsylvania.
"We purchased them about six months ago," said Kim Wiles, director of respiratory care at Klingensmith. "We needed a way to give our patients a way to travel."
In the past, oxygen patients who wanted to fly commercially had to coordinate with their oxygen supplier at the departure point of their trip, and with another oxygen supplier again at the end, point, not to mention at any connection points in between. The new rule should help ease the burden air travel poses to providers and patients, say industry sources.
"The patients have always been so dependent on the airline," said Spellman. "I know that when traveling with my father-in-law, an oxygen patient, we've always been so dependent upon the airline. This ruling is really opening the door to give patients more freedom to travel."
Added Wiles: "It was a hassle trying to find vendors to work with us," she explained. "We are now a member of The Med Group, and that network makes it easier to get the arrangements made for every patient. This ruling will just help us more."