Rep. Price: Repeal oxygen cap

Sunday, May 31, 2009

WASHINGTON--Reps. Tom Price, R-Ga., and Heath Schuler, D-N.C., introduced a bill, H.R., 2373, to repeal the 36-month oxygen cap  May 12.

Price was the lead sponsor of a similar bill last year, H.R. 621, which had more than 140 co-sponsors.

Price and other supporters have three options, John Gallagher, vice president of government relations for The VGM Group, told attendees of the HME Exposition & Conference in April: They can try to move it forward as a standalone bill - “a heavy lift,” he said - or they can try to attach it to a healthcare reform bill or a doc fix bill, both expected later this year.

Also during the “Washington Update” at the HME Expo, industry stakeholders told attendees that several Democrats in the House of Representatives are interested in sponsoring an oxygen reform bill - if it doesn’t cost anything.

The industry’s current plan is budget neutral, according to Cara Bachenheimer, senior vice president of government relations for Invacare. It’s based on the same amount of total reimbursement - it’s just divvied up differently. Providers would be reimbursed less for non-ambulatory patients and more for ambulatory patients, she said.

AAHomecare planned to draft legislation in late April, early May, Bachenheimer said.

In addition to oxygen, industry stakeholders discussed the future of national competitive bidding. Even if the program were kicked off in May 2009, CMS wouldn’t be able to implement it until April 2010, according to Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility.

An unnamed CMS official told the Wall Street Journal recently that the agency wouldn’t implement competitive bidding until Jan. 1, 2011, Johnson said.

Johnson, Bachenheimer and Gallagher are part of an AAHomecare task force charged with examining competitive bidding and developing possible alternatives.