• Oxygen Legislation
  • A letter by Jim Barnett, RRT
    Mission Community Hospital in Mission Viejo, California
  • This month I am writing to you to let you know what is happening in Congress. The Senate is currently considering legislation that would mandate competitive bidding for home oxygen currently provided as a Medicare benefit to approximately 800,000 Americans. We are fearful that such a move would have a seriously major effect upon the availability of certain types of oxygen systems to Medicare beneficiaries.
  • If this competitive bidding legislation is approved, it would cause strong financial pressure to provide the cheapest oxygen equipment available. Unfortunately, the cheapest equipment available is invariably a stationary system such as an electric concentrator or a heavy cylinder that supplies compressed gas. This could significantly decrease the ability to be independent and to be more mobile. This could definitely limit your choice for certain lightweight conserving devices. As we know, the use of lightweight ambulatory oxygen is more effective in restoring vital functions than oxygen delivered by stationary systems. Both length and quality of life is increased and hospital stays reduced by the use of lightweight portable systems when it helps you stay more physically active.
  • If price alone determines eligible suppliers under Medicare, there will be significant pressure to eliminate or reduce services and high quality product lines. I am very concerned that if this legislation is approved it would literally destroy thousands of small businesses, like oxygen providers and eliminate research for new lighter weight oxygen devices. It also would virtually eliminate the services to COPD patients from respiratory therapists and other medical professionals.
  • Ongoing service, and the support of DME companies, are an integral part of helping the patient have a better quality of life. What keeps service levels high is competition between the many companies in any given geographical area. Passage of competitive bidding would eliminate many providers from the Medicare oxygen pool. Once this happens, the competitive pressure lessens and a deterioration of the level of service is sure to follow. Access to quality home care would be severely limited based upon price bidding alone, with no service or choice issues even considered by the powers that be.
  • I urge all of you to respond by sending letters to your congressman, senators and any other representative of our government.
  • Jim went on to supply the names and addresses of the Congressman and Senators representing his area. May we suggest that instead of mailing letters you send them by fax or e-mail? Since the anthrax scare, letters take a long time to go through the precautions now installed. A fax or e-mail is received with greater enthusiasm. We know we covered this issue last month but it is so important that we felt it worth repeating.
  • Do you golf? Jim Barnett RRT goes golfing with one of his patients who, even on 6 liters of oxygen per minute, desaturates with activity. How do they manage a game of golf? When they pay for green fees, his patient requests a handicapped flag for the golf cart. With the flag flying on the golf cart, this patient rolls along except on the greens. The moral of this story: Don’t let being on oxygen keep you from enjoying life!
  • Do you also have a success story to share with us? Send it in to help us inspire others out there and remind them that: Yes, you can enjoy life with respiratory disease!