Price re-introduces oxygen bill

Sunday, January 28, 2007

WASHINGTON - The industry has rung the bell on Round 2 of its fight to repeal the 36-month cap on oxygen reimbursement. Industry ally Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., re-introduced the Home Oxygen Patient Protection Act in the House of Representatives Jan. 22.

The industry has also continued its fight to soften the blow of national competitive bidding. Reps. David Hobson, R-Ohio, and John Tanner, D-Tenn., plan to re-introduce the Hobson-Tanner bill in the House before Congress' Feb. 19th recess.

"We did well last year, but providers are going to have to get even more involved this year," said Wayne Grau, Pride Mobility's senior area manager for New England, who has conducted nationwide grassroots efforts to fight NCB.

In 2006, the oxygen bill had 85 co-sponsors in the House; a companion bill introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., had eight co-sponsors in the Senate. The Hobson-Tanner bill had 151 co-sponsors in the House, and a companion bill introduced by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, had three co-sponsors in the Senate.

The goal this year: While industry sources say there's no "magic number," it's believed at least 200 co-sponsors are needed in the House to give the bills' sponsors enough ammunition to attach them to larger bills.

Out of the gate, industry stakeholders plan to build on "strong support" from last year. They also plan to recruit Congress' new Democratic power brokers to their team, said Walt Gorski, vice president of government affairs for AAHomecare.

"Clearly, the Democrats are just trying to figure out how to move forward on a number of healthcare issues and how to prioritize those issues," he said. "As they do that, we want to let them know that (oxygen and competitive bidding) are two of our priorities."

Since much of 2008 will be dedicated to the presidential election, 2007 is "the key year," Gorski said.

"This is the year of Medicare reform," he said.