Wilma victims get break on 02 refills

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

ORLANDO, Fla. - DME providers in Wilma-stricken south Florida can now provide oxygen to Medicaid recipients without a prescription thanks to a waiver issued by state Medicaid officials.
CMS has so far denied a request by the Florida Association of Medical Equipment Services for a similar waiver for federal Medicare patients.
The oxygen waiver eliminated the need for prescriptions for oxygen refills through Nov. 18. To qualify, Medicaid patients using oxygen had to obtain oxygen refills though Medicaid-participating DME providers.
Requests could not be an original prescription order and documentation needs to include patient information and a statement that "this order was filled because the patient was not able to access medical oxygen from its current medical oxygen provider due to the effect of hurricane Wilma."
"This is very, very good news," said Raul Lopez, president of FAMES. "With no access to prescriptions, physicians' offices closed, non-working phone and fax lines, patients on existing oxygen had quite a delay trying to get things resolved. They had to visit emergency rooms and temporary care shelter tents that were set up in order to get prescriptions. There were issues, as well, with a couple of the oxygen suppliers having no fuel to get it to the DME supplier."
CMS is not extending blanket waivers for Florida Medicare participants like they did after Hurricane Katrina, planning instead to assess problems on an individual basis. But with almost 900,000 Medicare eligible recipients in Broward, Dade, Monroe and Palm Beach counties, FAMES will urge CMS to re-evaluate the situation.
"Approximately 25% of the victims of Wilma are eligible for Medicare benefits," said Lopez. "CMS does not realize the scope of the disaster that has affected south Florida."