Oxygen bill introduced in Senate

Sunday, August 6, 2006

WASHINGTON - The industry's efforts to roll back a 36-month cap on Medicare oxygen reimbursement continued to gain momentum last week when Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., introduced a companion bill to the House of Representative's bill.

Roberts introduced the bill late on Thursday, just before the Senate adjourned for its August recess.

"This is a huge plus," said Michael Reinemer, AAHomecare's vice president for communications and policy. "The number of co-sponsors has grown rapidly on the House side and to also have a Senate bill--it sends a clear message that there's strong opposition to this in Congress."

Since it was introduced May 26, the industry has collected 48 co-sponsors for H.R. 5513. It already has four co-sponsors for S. 3814: Sens. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio; Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.; Jack Reed, D, R.I.; and George Voinovich, R-Ohio.

The bills would repeal the oxygen cap, which was passed earlier this year as part of the Deficit Reduction Act, and restore ownership of equipment to providers. Per the DRA, providers must transfer ownership to beneficiaries after 36 months.

Cara Bachenheimer, vice president of government relations for Invacare, isn't surprised the industry has made relatively quick work of collecting so-sponsors and getting a Senate bill introduced.

"It's ridiculous to ask a frail person to be responsible for their equipment," she said. "That resonates with people."

AAHomecare representatives and providers met with Roberts several times during the association's Legislative Fly-in June 19-20 to discuss sponsoring a Senate companion bill, Reinemer said.

"He has gone out of his way to be helpful all along," he said. "Even during the DRA debates late last year, he hand delivered a couple of our letters to the Senate floor."