Last week, members of the HME community responded to an article in the Wall Street Journal printed on June 16, with the following Letter to the Editor-
Your recent article on home oxygen therapy (Medicare Rule on Paying for Oxygen Vexes Patients, June 16) underscores the often overlooked negative impact of Medicare cuts on the beneficiaries who depend on medical oxygen.
In recent years, payments to providers for the home oxygen therapy benefit have been significantly cut many times. Today, Medicare payment rates are 50 percent lower than they were 10 years ago. In 2009 alone, Medicare will cut oxygen rates by 27%, a result of the 36 month cap highlighted in your article, and a 9.5% cut to all home oxygen therapy reimbursements. These reimbursement cuts reduce access to quality care, and the new Medicare rules create problems for patients who want to move to another city to be closer to their families.
As leaders in Congress discuss healthcare reform, this is the ideal time to consider fundamental, budget-neutral reform of the home oxygen benefit. This Medicare benefit should be improved to define a uniform set of required services for all patients. Reform should also ensure adequate payment to providers for all beneficiaries, throughout the patient’s entire length of medical need.
Repeated cuts to this benefit are not a solution. Properly reforming the home oxygen benefit will require a structure that aligns Medicare payments with the cost of care and the essential patient services that providers deliver.
We hope that Congress will advance a solution that will protect the patients we serve and preserve our ability to provide the level of service they need.
To read the Wall Street Journal article, please visit http://online.wsj.com/article/SB124511204251317173.html.