Oxygen reform: Industry has more work to do

Sunday, September 27, 2009

WASHINGTON - The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has set back the industry's efforts to reform the oxygen benefit.

 In the House of Representatives last week, Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., discussed AAHomecare's revised oxygen reform plan and the score it received from the CBO. The CBO believes the plan would cost Medicare money ($500 million, according to some sources).

 "So now we must explore why the CBO is scoring legislation at a cost when it's budget neutral," said Walt Gorski, AAHomecare's vice president of government affairs.

 The discussion took place during a larger discussion of possible amendments to healthcare reform legislation.

 The good news, Gorski said: Ross secured a commitment from Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, to work together on the plan.

 Still, "it won't be easy" to get the plan included in final healthcare reform legislation, some sources say.

 "The further we get into the process, the more difficult it will be," one source said. "We have bills introduced; they've gone through committee; they've been voted on. Yes, at each point in the process, there are opportunities to make changes, but it won't be easy."

 Healthcare reform legislation in the House is now in the hands of the Rules Committee, whose members will work to combine various versions of the legislation into one version.

 Additionally, AAHomecare must deal with continued opposition to its revised plan from NAIMES, CSIHME and some state associations. Their sticking point: AAHomecare's plan calls for reducing Medicare's current combined reimbursement rate for stationary and portable oxygen to 90% of the 2009 allowable. They prefer keeping the combined rate at 100% or 95% and cutting stationary oxygen instead.

 "I have some very serious concerns with the proposed payment provisions," said Wayne Stanfield, NAIMES's executive director. "It could be little improvement over the cap. If I have to take a 10% or more cut over my whole oxygen business to do this, am I better off with the cap or without it? We're not sure."