Senate picks up 'doc fix' debate

Sunday, April 13, 2008

WASHINGTON - The Senate Finance Committee returned to work on the "doc fix" and--no big surprise here--oxygen and power wheelchair reimbursement is at risk, industry stakeholders say.

Providers need to "speak up" to keep members from using provisions that reduce oxygen reimbursement and eliminate the first-month purchase option for power wheelchairs to prevent a 10% cut to physician rates on July 1, AAHomecare alerted members last week.

"That's a message that we're continuing to carry to our legislators," said Seth Johnson, vice president of government affairs for Pride Mobility Products and vice chairman of AAHomecare's Rehab and Assistive Technology Council.

The early word on the street, the association reported, is that members will opt for an 18-month extension of the current physician rates. Congress made a similar move earlier this year when they bumped the start date of the physician rate cuts six months, from Jan. 1 to July 1.

Even though members are working off a previously passed House bill that calls for reducing oxygen reimbursement and eliminating the first-month purchase option, industry stakeholders expect the "doc fix" will be part of a small Medicare bill.

"We're continuing to hear from senators and representatives who are closely involved in this that they fully anticipate a very scaled back, bare bones Medicare package that only addresses the doc fix and most likely won't include any further reductions to home medical equipment," Johnson said.

Industry stakeholders expect members to put out a Medicare bill with a doc fix next month and go directly to the floor with it, bypassing a possibly messy committee markup.