Stakeholders compromise on oxygen reform

Sunday, August 23, 2009

WASHINGTON - The division over how to best reform the oxygen benefit may be disappearing.

AAHomecare had a face-to-face meeting on Tuesday with various stakeholders, including NAIMES and CSIHME (NAIMES and CSIHME have come out publicly against H.R. 3220, the association's plan to reform the oxygen benefit).

Then on Friday, in a bulletin to members, AAHomecare announced that stakeholders were reviewing a "comprimise proposal." The compromise would eliminate the 36-month oxygen cap, recognize service as part of the benefit and create a mechanism to show cost transparency (but one that's less burdensom than what's called for in H.R. 3220). It would not reclassify suppliers as providers or eliminate oxygen from national competitive bidding (that would be addressed in separate legislation).

"This is an important step in the right direction, which means getting all stakeholders in the oxygen community working together toward a common goal," stated Tyler Wilson, AAHomecare's president, in the bulletin. "After stakeholders reach an agreement, many additional steps in the legislative process will remain before reforms are enacted or providers can take comfort."

NAIMES Executive Director Wayne Stanfield seconded that motion.

"We are pleased to support the compromise proposal now under review by the participants at the Tuesday meeting," he sated in the bulletin. "We look forward to supporting the final language and joining forces with AAHomecare, state organizations and the rest of the supplier community to protect the greater good of the entire industry."

This news should be music to the ears of these providers, who recently commented to HME News on oxygen reform:

*    Ed Erickson, Great Plains Homecare Equipment in North Platte, Neb.: "At some point, the main proposals have to come together in some form or another. Otherwise, it's hard to explain to lawmakers why we support one, while another provider supports a different one. It's extremely confusing to the legislative aides and sends the message that we aren't unified."

*    Glen Schrader, Low Country Home Oxygen in Bluffton, S.C.: "I hope they reach a compromise. It seems like they're working hard at it."

Representatives for the American Lung Association, which has criticized H.R. 3220 as "fundamentally flawed," were also at the meeting. Other participants: The Council for Quality Respiratory Care, the American Thoracic Surgeons, the American Association for Respiratory Care, the National Home Oxygen Patients Association and the National Association for Medical Direction of Respiratory Care.

NAIMES and CSIHME, among others, have refused to throw their weight behind H.R. 3220, sponsored by Rep. Mike Ross, D-Ark., for a several reasons, including a provision that would eliminate oxygen from competitive bidding and reclassify oxygen suppliers as providers.