Wisconsin: Oxygen license act passes

Friday, April 24, 2015

WILD ROSE, Wis. – HME providers in Wisconsin will now be able to dispense oxygen without a pharmacist on staff. 

Gov. Scott Walker on March 23 signed a bill allowing HME providers to obtain a license to dispense oxygen from the Pharmacy Examining Board. The act goes into effect May 1. 

Had the act not been passed, providers and their patients would have been left in the lurch, says Jim Spellman, director of the Wisconsin Association of Medical Equipment Services and owner of New Berlin, Wis.-based Home Care Medical.

“Oxygen providers wouldn’t have been able to dispense oxygen and bill insurance for it,” he said. “If that happened, who would provide oxygen for our clients?” 

Under previous law, only pharmacists licensed by the Pharmacy Examining Board, a physician or authorized practitioner were permitted to dispense oxygen because it is considered a prescription drug.

While that may have been the law, Spellman says that wasn’t the case in practice.

“Oxygen providers have been operating under a wholesale distributer license (issued by the Pharmacy Examining Board) for years,” he said. 

In 2014, however, CMS noticed the fine print on Wisconsin’s state statute and issued a letter stating that providers without a licensed pharmacist on staff were considered non-compliant. 

“We were able to get the governor to write a letter to CMS asking for a one-year extension,” said Spellman. 

CMS granted the extension, giving WAMES an opportunity to get a bill drafted and introduced.

Rick Adamich, a WAMES board member and president of Waukesha, Wis.-based Oxygen One, hopes the association’s success will drive up membership. 

“I think our efforts have underscored the value of being part of a state association and what a state association can do,” he said. “We showed we could come together and affect change.”