Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Senate Passes Final Bill with No Cuts to Homecare; House Expected to Follow Suit

This year’s final Medicare bill, which passed in the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent and was voted on in the House of Representatives today, does not contain any provisions relating to oxygen or wheelchairs.

The final compromise is a stripped-down bill that provides a short six-month“fix”to the reimbursement cut for doctors that was scheduled to take effect in January of 2008. The bill replaces replaces the scheduled 10 percent cut to Medicare reimbursement for physicians with a 0.5 percent increase through June 30, 2008.

Once the President passes this bill, as expected, the home medical equipment industry will have scored at least a temporary victory with respect to oxygen cuts and the elimination of the first-month purchase option for wheelchairs. Unfortunately there is also no language either addressing the industry’s concerns about competitive bidding or repealing the current transfer of ownership of oxygen equipment.

The passage of this scaled-down bill will give homecare advocates some breathing room to present arguments for preserving or strengthening homecare policies under Medicare before Congress returns inevitably to the same issues again next year. With respect to that process, the AAHomecare Washington Leadership Conference will occur at an opportune time next year, March 4-6, 2008.

The American Association for Homecare thanks all of the many providers, state associations, patient organizations, manufacturers, buying groups, and other stakeholders who have worked hard over the past 12 months to inform Congress about the importance of homecare. We will continue to report developments as they occur.

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