Paving the way for increased POC use: AirSep

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Some time this summer, AirSep plans to debut a program that allows providers to purchase a portable oxygen concentrator at a price that doesn't inflict sticker shock. Under this new program, AirSep will sell a stationary concentrator and a portable concentrator, the LifeStyle, for about half the price providers now pay for some portable concentrators, company President Joe Priest said last month.
"We'll be coming out with some programs that we think will make it very economical for homecare providers to put a portable oxygen concentrator with a stationary concentrator as part of the Medicare model," Priest said.
The stationary will cover a patient's home oxygen needs, the portable his ambulatory requirements. Together they'll save the provider money by reducing deliveries, Priest said. Until now, AirSep advised providers not to not offer the LifeStyle to patients under Medicare's reimbursement for home oxygen therapy--the same for its new FreeStyle portable oxygen concentrator. The units cost too much and Medicare doesn't reimburse enough for them. It's better to have Medicare beneficiaries buy or rent them out of pocket, Priest said.
"Our attitude is that providers should take confidence in saying that this is a specialty product: 'I can't afford to provide it, but if you like, you can either buy it from me, or I'll rent it outside the Medicare program,'" he said.
AirSep continues to market the 3.5-pound FreeStyle for outside the Medicare model. But the company has been able to drive cost out of the older 9.5-pound LifeStyle, making it reasonably profitable to rent under Medicare reimbursement, Priest said.
"I think that is great, because what has held us back is price," said Alan Kirk, vice president of Total Home Health in Elgin, Ill.
Under Medicare, Total Home Health has provided one patient with a portable concentrator--a patient who consumed 60 portable cylinders a month and "wanted more," Kirk said. By eliminating the deliveries, "we figured we were saving money." The provider has sold, however, roughly half a dozen of the units to patients for about $5,000 apiece. The company also loans them free of charge to its oxygen patients who request a portable concentrator for travel.