AARC Virtual Lobby Campaign —
March 27–April 10, 2019
Tell Congress to Co-Sponsor the BREATHE Act and Protect Patient Access to Liquid Oxygen
As we kick off our 2019 Virtual Lobby Campaign prior to our Advocacy Day on Capitol Hill April 9, we have two important messages for Congressional leaders.
Co-Sponsor the BREATHE Act/Introduce Senate Companion Legislation
We want House members to co-sponsor the Better Respiration Through Expanding Access to Tele-Health Act (the BREATHE Act) when introduced and Senators to support introduction of a companion bill.
This legislation is a 3-year pilot that allows respiratory therapists to furnish disease management services, such as self-management education and training, demonstration/evaluation of proper inhaler techniques, smoking cessation and remote patient monitoring to Medicare beneficiaries with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Its purpose is to demonstrate the value RTs bring to the health care system and their patients through improved health outcomes and lower costs that can support the addition of respiratory therapists to the Medicare statute in the future.
Protect Patient Access to Liquid Oxygen
Beginning Jan. 1, 2019, the Medicare program suspended its competitive bidding program that pays suppliers of home medical equipment, recognizing flaws in the program and the need to establish a new bidding process that leads to more accurate payment for services. Individuals who need supplemental oxygen, especially liquid oxygen systems, may be seriously impacted by this change which is expected to last between 18 and 24 months, e.g., gap period. Individuals with pulmonary fibrosis, advanced-stage COPD and those awaiting lung transplants are particularly vulnerable because they need high flow liters of oxygen which can only be provided by liquid systems. Without it they are homebound and their quality of life is diminished.
Although AARC and other physician and patient advocacy groups will be monitoring the impact on patient access to liquid oxygen during the “gap period”, it is important for members of Congress to share their concern with Medicare that patients continue to receive the services they need. Medicare claims data show a sharp reduction in both stationary and liquid oxygen systems since the inception of competitive bidding and we want CMS to take the necessary steps to prevent further decline.
We are asking members of Congress to sign a letter to the Medicare Administrator when it becomes available directing the agency to carefully monitor patient access to liquid oxygen during the gap period, especially during the first six months. CMS would be required to report initial findings to Congress no later than Nov. 1, 2019, that include policy steps it is taking to ensure Medicare beneficiaries who need liquid oxygen systems continue to receive medically appropriate services. We are working with key Congressional leaders to develop and circulate a “Dear Colleague” letter.
So How Can You Help?
Take action now by contacting your Congressional leaders. It’s important that Congress hear from RTs, RT students, patients and their caregivers, physicians and other supporters of the respiratory profession. We have drafted messages for your use but we encourage you to personalize them because it has the most impact.
This is an exciting time as the recognition of respiratory therapists by Congressional leaders is gaining momentum. Don’t delay — get started now!