Oxygen: Providers could hang on to equipment ownership
WASHINGTON - Some relief could be on the way for oxygen providers.
A Medicare bill passed by the House of Representatives and Senate would, among other things, allow providers to retain ownership of their oxygen equipment. As part of the 36-month oxygen cap, providers are supposed to transfer ownership to beneficiaries beginning Jan. 1, 2009.
"If I still own the equipment, I know I can service it at least twice a year to make sure it's working properly," said Michael Calcaterra, who manages Norco's Missoula, Mont., branch. "If the beneficiary owns the equipment, I can only ask them if they want me to service the equipment."
Per the oxygen cap, providers must still forego collecting reimbursement beginning Jan. 1. It's still unclear how CMS plans to pay for ongoing service and maintenance post-cap.
Allowing providers to retain ownership would also help keep concentrators out of the wrong hands, providers say. In lobbying for the change, industry stakeholders pointed out that oxygen is an FDA-controlled drug.
"This would take care of concerns about what beneficiaries would do with the equipment after they're done using it," said Eric Parkhill, vice president of Home Medical Professionals in Atlanta. "We don't want it ending up on eBay."
Additionally, allowing providers to retain ownership would be best for beneficiaries, providers say.
"You can't expect a lot of these elderly people to take care of this kind of equipment on their own," said Barb Stockert, the reimbursement manager for Healthcare Accessories in Bemidji, Minn.
There may be some drawbacks to providers retaining ownership. If providers own the equipment and something goes wrong, for example, they're on the hook, not beneficiaries.
"I've heard those complaints, but I'd still prefer to own the equipment," said Gary Sheehan, general manager of Cape Medical Supply in Sandwich, Mass. "It makes the most sense."