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Medicare Respiratory Therapy Initiative Reintroduced into U.S. Senate and House

Update: February 16, 2009

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The House of Representatives has joined the Senate in introducing the Medicare Respiratory Therapy Initiative. The House bill, HR 1077, was introduced late Friday by Congressman Mike Ross (D-AR). The wording of the bill is identical to that in the Senate.

The bill introductions come just three weeks before AARC Political Advocacy Contact Team (PACT) members will be visiting Washington to drum up support for this measure. Nearly 100 respiratory therapists will be in Washington March 9-10, visiting their members of Congress and educating them on the importance of these measures.

January 30, 2009

The AARC’s Medicare Respiratory Therapy Initiative has just been reintroduced into the new Congress. Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Mike Crapo (R-ID) brought the legislation back to the Senate as S 343.

This bill replaces S 2704, which was pending in the last Congress. As before, the bill seeks to revise the Medicare law to permit qualified respiratory therapists to provide certain services, such as smoking cessation, asthma management, medication education, and inhaler training. These services will be provided to asthma, COPD, and other respiratory patients under the general supervision of a physician, but without the doctor present under Part B Medicare law.

Learn more about the Medicare Respiratory Therapy Initiative by reading our FAQs

The AARC expects introduction of a companion bill in the House of Representatives soon.

"Our legislation will help improve access to much-needed lung health services for Medicare beneficiaries in the care setting that is right for them," Lincoln said. "It’s a targeted legislative fix that will help many Americans receive the services they need from qualified respiratory therapists."

"This legislation paves the way for greater access to quality respiratory therapy services for pulmonary patients," noted Crapo.

The AARC launched the initiative in 2007 in an effort to improve patient access to qualified RTs in all of the places they might seek care—doctor’s office, outpatient clinic, even their own home—and have those services covered by Medicare. The Association worked hard last year to educate members of Congress about the legislation, pointing out the obvious benefits to patients and gathering support from the respiratory therapy, patient advocacy, and physician communities.

Now that the bill has been reintroduced into the Senate, AARC’s Director of Government Affairs, Cheryl West, says the Association will embark on a full-scale effort to engage previous and additional co-sponsors and advance the legislation. “This is a journey, a quest we have been on as a profession for years,” she says. “Respiratory therapists need to be able to practice and be covered by Medicare in all of those settings where their patients are. This legislation is stepping us in that direction.”

AARC President Tim Myers, BS, RRT-NPS, applauds Senators Lincoln and Crapo for reintroducing the legislation and believes it can and will play a big part in the coming drive to overhaul our health care system. “As the nation begins to work towards health care reform, it is essential that patients receive the right care at the right time in the right place. This legislation will help ensure that happens by making cost-effective respiratory therapists available to deliver key health education and preventative services in the least expensive health care settings.”

Senator Lincoln is a member of the influential Senate Finance Subcommittee, which tackles many important health issues. Senator Crapo is a founding member of the Congressional COPD Caucus, a group that meets to consider legislation to help COPD patients live better lives. Senator Lincoln is also a founding member of the Caucus and worked with Senator Crapo to introduce S 329, the Pulmonary and Cardiac Rehabilitation Act, which became law last summer when it was included in the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008.