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Oxygen Reform Supported by AARC and the Coalition Gains Momentum in Congress

The health of over 1.5 million Americans on Medicare depends on access to the appropriate supplemental oxygen treatment. The challenges patients face in accessing oxygen are largely caused by an inadequate Medicare reimbursement system.  Medicare doesn’t pay for respiratory therapists to provide education or training for new or existing oxygen users .

Many people, especially those enrolled in Medicare, face challenges accessing and receiving the right type and levels of essential, life-sustaining oxygen. People who need supplemental oxygen are often required to stay longer in the hospital or become effectively housebound because they lack portable options for oxygen. This is especially true for people who require liquid oxygen to meet their higher-level needs, as it has become virtually unavailable due to inadequate reimbursement. Further compounding their crisis is the inaccessibility to respiratory therapy, similarly caused by the absence of Medicare reimbursement.

The AARC, as a member of a large Oxygen Reform Coalition of patients, professional and industry groups, has advocated for reform legislation and has met on Capitol Hill with members of Congress over the past 18 months to call for support of our consensus principles – the Four Pillars for Oxygen Reform (above).

AARC prioritized introduction of this legislation at our annual Washington, DC Fly-In in September, 2023.  AARC Political Action Contact Team (PACT) members had over 200 meetings encouraging oxygen payment reform. Theresa Cantu, MSRC, RRT, RRT-NPS, AE-C, and the California delegation met with Congressman David Valadeo (R-CA), who has given introduction of legislation a priority and lent the support of his office to co-sponsor a bill based on the Coalition’s 4 pillars. “We’re grateful to Congressman Valadeo for his important leadership on this initiative” Cantu shared. “It is with his help that patients will have access to care provided by a respiratory therapist when they are placed on supplemental oxygen and in need.”

The third pillar of reform recognizes respiratory therapists who, with this legislation, will be reimbursed for the education and training of oxygen patients.  “For years, AARC has advocated for patient access to respiratory care outside the acute care setting.” said AARC President Carl Hinkson MS, RRT-ACCS, NPS, FAARC. “Along with our coalition partners, we have great anticipation for this legislation to pass and a future where supplemental oxygen patients have the opportunity and freedom to return to a fuller and healthier life.”

“AARC is proud to be a part of the coalition and has committed to get this legislation passed.” states Dan Garrett, AARC Executive Director “This is a remarkable day for oxygen patients as Congress recognizes the need to focus on access to care and to improve payment for supplemental oxygen so that healthcare providers can match equipment to patient needs.”

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