Providers, AARC clear the air

Sunday, August 17, 2008

IRVING, Texas - Provider-based respiratory therapists demanded respect from the American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) and last month, they got it.

"It just shows that you should speak up, and say, "Hey' we're RTs too,'" said Kelly Riley, director of The MED Group's National Respiratory Network.

The trouble began in June, when the AARC began fielding calls from home oxygen beneficiaries who said that they were being told they had to switch to different equipment as a result of Medicare reimbursement changes. The association issued a memo to its members, encouraging hospital-based RTs to ensure any such switches didn't compromise patient health.

That sent provider-based RTs into an uproar, said Riley.

"They felt the tone of the memo--though it wasn't intended that way--was that hospital therapists needed to watch out for their unscrupulous homecare peers," she said. "We all want patients protected and many providers felt like the memo cast a negative light on them."

AARC heard them. In a July 24 letter to its members it stated: "We take this opportunity to make crystal clear that AARC recognizes the value of all respiratory therapists, regardless of setting."

The intent of the original memo was to make sure that, despite competitive bidding and the 36-month oxygen cap, patients would continue to have access to care, said Bob McCoy, AARC's homecare chair. The real work lies in educating CMS about home oxygen therapy, he said.