Today, a group of organizations representing home oxygen therapy patients, physicians, home oxygen providers, and oxygen system manufacturers issued a statement opposing provisions in the President's proposed 2008 budget that would threaten the home oxygen therapy benefit in Medicare.
The group, which includes the American Association for Homecare, the National Association for Medical Direction of Respiratory Care, and National Home Oxygen Patients Association, strongly objects to a proposal in the 2008 budget that would force Medicare patients to assume the burden of owning and managing medical oxygen equipment in their homes after only 13 months of use.
The statement says, "We believe the proposed change in payment methodology places an unfair, unsafe, and unrealistic burden on the beneficiary." The entire statement can be viewed at http://www.aahomecare.org.
The organizations are focused on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients and their safe and effective respiratory management in the home. The group is deeply concerned that Medicare policy is increasingly at odds with the clinical needs of home oxygen therapy patients, as well as physicians' and home oxygen providers' ability to deliver optimal home respiratory care.
The typical Medicare home oxygen beneficiary is a woman in her seventies who suffers from late-stage COPD with associated severe low levels of oxygen in her blood (hypoxemia). COPD is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and is the only leading cause of death for which both prevalence and mortality are rising. COPD is a chronic, debilitating disease characterized by severe airflow limitation resulting from chronic inflammation of the airways, decrease in functional lung tissue, and the dysfunction of pulmonary blood vessels.
"The President's proposed budget significantly impacts citizens least able to manage ownership of respiratory medical equipment," said Jon Tiger, president of the National Home Oxygen Patients Association. "It leaves them without a network to ensure proper functioning of the equipment and to whom concerns can be raised. The proposal also removes the incentive for manufacturers to continually improve their equipment and will result in used prescription equipment ending up in the secondary market."
Tyler Wilson, president and CEO of the American Association for Homecare, stated, "The proposed change to home oxygen therapy policy will hamper patients' access to the therapy and discourage investment in new oxygen technology. We oppose forcing ownership on the patient, which saddles the beneficiary with unnecessary burdens. Moreover, home oxygen has been the target of budget cuts for many years. Congress has reduced Medicare reimbursement for oxygen therapy by nearly 50 percent over the past 10 years."
Approximately 15 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, and an estimated 12 to 15 million more remain undiagnosed. COPD costs the U.S. economy more than $18 billion per year in direct medical costs and an estimated $11 billion in indirect costs.
Medical oxygen is a highly regulated prescription drug. Both medical oxygen and the systems that deliver oxygen require a prescription from a physician. Because of services required for providing oxygen therapy, it is best suited to a continuing, uninterrupted relationship with a qualified home oxygen provider. Prior to the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA), the home oxygen benefit in Medicare provided for rental as long as the prescribed oxygen therapy was medically required by the patient.
The patient, physician, and provider organizations endorse the new national COPD public education campaign launched by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, which is designed to encourage better diagnosis, treatment, and awareness about COPD in order to spare patients the suffering and costs of this disease.
The American Association for Homecare (AAHomecare) represents all lines of service and therapy in the homecare community, including home medical equipment providers, respiratory therapy, infusion therapy, telemedicine, and rehab and assistive technology. AAHomecare represents more than 3,000 member locations in all 50 states.
American Association For Homecare
American Association For Home Care
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