Reps. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) and Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.) have introduced the Medicare Home Oxygen Therapy Act of 2009, an oxygen benefit reform bill, in the House of Representatives.
MHOTA goes well beyond the limited oxygen provisions contained in the healthcare reform bill that was introduced into the House this week. Provisions in the bill are very similar to the oxygen reforms outlined by the New Oxygen Coalition, and the American Association for Homecare says it worked closely with the Congressmen to craft the components of the bill.
Some key reforms proposed by the bill:
- Repeals the 36-month rental cap on oxygen equipment.
- Is budget-neutral, so total Medicare dollars for oxygen outlay does not change.
- Pulls oxygen therapy out of competitive bidding.
- Recognition of the essential services that are part of home oxygen therapy.
That final point ensures that the funding for oxygen services is based on the true costs of providing home oxygen therapy, rather than being based solely on the cost of the equipment.
The provisions of the Ross-Meek bill would apply to oxygen services and supplies furnished on or after January 1, 2010.
“The Ross-Meek bill provides an opportunity to help protect oxygen patients, bring stability to oxygen policy, and provide cost transparency,” said AAHomecare president Tyler Wilson “We thank Representatives Ross and Meek for championing this important reform legislation.”
However, the National Association of Independent Medical Equipment Suppliers (NAIMES) and CSI:HME sent a letter to Rep. Rossexpressing concerns over the Ross-Meek bill’s impact on smaller providers and offering changes that NAIMES says would improve the bill.
Some key concerns expressed in the letter:
- Linking of oxygen reform to removing it from the competitive bidding process could jeopardize the reform’s chances of success.
- Moving oxygen out of the DMEPOS benefit and separating oxygen providers from DME suppliers could result in fewer businesses that deliver the full range of DME products and services.
- The move to “provider” status and a mandate for cost reporting will lead to moving oxygen to a PPS program that will benefit larger companies and hurt smaller providers. The letter says that concern is justified given the bill’s inclusion of the same kind of geographic index process that is used by the PPS categories.
“NAIMES and CSIHME cannot support this proposal in its current form, which includes moving home oxygen out of DMEPOS to a stand-alone category and requires a cost reporting mechanism,” read a public statement from NAIMES. “We fully support Rep. Ross’s efforts on behalf of the DME industry and have recommended changes to the legislation. We have offered to work with all parties to improve the bill to better serve the independent provider community, protect patients, and appropriately pay for home oxygen including new technology.”
AAHomecare urged providers supporting MHOTA to contact their Representatives to co-sponsor the bill in order to improve its chances of being included in the healthcare reform package Congress is currently considering. To view a list of potential co-sponsors, as well as lawmakers who have already signed the bill, visit the AAHomecare website.