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You can make a difference!

Presently, the Deficit Reduction Act calls for Medicare beneficiaries to take over ownership of their oxygen concentrators after 36 months of rental. It is then up to the oxygen user to determine if their equipment is work- ing properly. This leaves many unanswered questions as to travel needs, emergency equipment and service. If you were using a concentrator from a home care supplier on January 1, 2006, you will automatically own it on January 1, 2009. Some lawmakers would like to reduce the rental time from 36 months to 18 months!cartoon of a person thinking

The Home Oxygen Patient Protec- tion Act, HR 621 (House version) and S 1484 (Senate version) are identical bills. The House and the Senate are discussing the same issues. HR 621 and S 1484 call for rescinding the 36-month concentrator rule and return Medicare payments for oxygen to where they were before the Deficit Reduction Act was passed. There is so much more to oxygen ther- apy than paying for a concentrator.

In September, lawmakers returned to Washington, DC. You can call (1-202-224-3121), email (find a link to your senator at or visit both Senators from your state, and ask them to support HR 621 and S 1484. Mailing a letter may take too much time!

Identify yourself to the senators, letting them know you are a supplemental oxygen user. Tell them the House of Representatives has passed HR 3162, which would re- duce oxygen payments and may eliminate your choices of portable oxygen systems. Ask that they support the Home Oxygen Patient Protection Act HR 621 and S 1484 to repeal oxygen concentrator transfer of ownership.

A government study found that people who use home oxygen are less likely to go to the hospital. Home oxygen costs Medicare $7.62 per day; one day in the hos- pital can cost as much as $4,600. More than one million people on Medicare use oxygen.

John Grub of Enola, PA, learned about the Home Oxygen Patient Protection Act and immediately wrote his elected officials. He also contacted 30 of his friends and relatives, asking them to contact their local senators for support.

Jim Ryan of Honeoye Falls, NY, reports, “The panic among oxygen suppliers has already started. My supplier called to inform me they will no longer be handling liquid oxygen because they don’t see any profit in it. They said I will have to switch to cylinders or find another liquid supplier. The problem for me is I have tried numerous conservers in my seven years of oxygen use and find none keeps me saturated except for the Caire Spirit 300, which is a liquid system.”

Anne Glasner of Wisconsin, wrote to her Senator, Russell Feingold. He wrote that he would keep her thoughts in mind.

We contacted Wayne Knewasser, Vice President Public Relations/ Government Affairs of Premier Home Care Inc. in Louisville, KY, and president of Kentucky Medical Equipment Suppliers Association.

Wayne asks our members, “How many of you have taken the time to make the call to your elected officials?

If you can answer ‘I did’, you did a great service to yourself and the COPD community.”

“Homecare, which accounts for approximately 3 percent of the total Medicare budget, continues to experience cuts in benefits and services as seen with the Deficit Reduction Act. Why is it then, that the most cost- effective means of providing healthcare services to an aging population, continues to experience Medicare cut backs? Is it possible that our Congressional leaders do not understand the cost effectiveness of providing in-home care? Or is it because we are a minority population and do not speak out with a strong voice as a consumer, family member or business owner?”

wayne continues, “Continuous rental of oxygen concentrators has drawn considerable attention from the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The contention is that the monthly allowable for the rental of the concentrator is their basis for determining rea- sonable reimbursement for in-home oxygen services. There is no existing means to determine the costs associated with

providing patient care and services to the oxygen bene- ficiary. The OIG has stated they have reviewed the cost of providing in-home oxygen services based on equipment purchase price versus the length of the rental. Costs associated with providing services were largely ignored. Until there is a significant change in the way they perceive in-home oxygen, you can expect to receive further reductions.

The main issue, as I (your in-home equipment provider) see it, is we as a group (equipment suppliers) have not been united in educating our beneficiaries and legislators about the advantages of providing in-home oxygen. You come first!

To achieve results, requires a serious commitment on the part of the provider and the beneficiary to be as informed and actively involved with every aspect of the needs to the COPD population we serve. It requires developing and implementing educational programs and participating in support groups.”

We agree with Wayne, we all need to be actively involved.