Monthly Letters to Pulmonary Patients by Thomas L. Petty

Thomas L. Petty, M.D.

Professor of Medicine, 
University of Colorado

Chairman, National Lung Health Education Program (NLHEP)


National Lung Health Education Program
A collaborative project with



HealthOne Center
1850 High Street
Denver, CO 80218
Phone: 303 839 6755
Fax: 303 832 8137

Pure Air

February, 2006

Dear Friends

Most people take oxygen for granted.  Some of us need additional oxygen to deal with chronic lung diseases and to remain healthy and productive.  Fortunately we have modern oxygen equipment that can serve the needs of most people.

            But oxygen remains under attack because of proposed reductions in reimbursement to suppliers.  This can potentially limit the application of new ambulatory systems that have many advantages over the old and obsolete concentrators and e-cylinders that remain used by many. Much of the problem can be laid at the feet of the suppliers who have created an image to the government, of providing only the most rudimentary equipment with limited service, in the interests of profit.  This is the result of the "modality neutral reimbursement policy," that is archaic and must be replaced.  Hopefully public pressure by the over 1 million users and the physicians who prescribe oxygen, can be used to gain legislation that will support use of the most useful and rehabilitative methods of oxygen administration.  Ambulatory oxygen helps improve survival and reduces hospitalizations, compared with stationary oxygen.  Thus it is cost effective.

            Oxygen was discovered by Joseph Priestly in 1774.  He produced it from chemicals that can be caused to release oxygen.  He captured this "Pure Air," as he called it, in an inverted glass cylinder placed over water to catch the bubbles of oxygen that came from the chemicals.  He and two mice breathed this "pure air," and Priestley noted a "light and easy feeling." “Who can tell, but in time this pure air may become a fashionable article in luxury!" 

            Oxygen is not a luxury, but a necessity to be able to live and enjoy life in the modern era.  Congress, it is time to act!

I'll be in touch next month

Your Friend,

  Thomas Petty, MD

Last update:
11 Mar 2006