October 22, 2009
Funding for home oxygen therapy is critical to Medicare beneficiaries
By Sherry Stanley
As a beneficiary of Medicare's home oxygen benefit, I pay very close attention to what is happening in Washington with health-care reform. While many of the "big issues" of reform are widely covered in the news, smaller Medicare benefits, like home oxygen therapy, don't always receive the attention they deserve. But home oxygen is critically important to beneficiaries like me — who may not have a strong voice in Washington.
I suffer from degenerative and irreversible lung disease that makes it difficult for me to breathe on my own. With the help of home oxygen therapy, I can breathe properly, remain independent and somewhat active, and receive therapy safely in my own home. There are approximately one and half million Medicare beneficiaries across the country who also suffer from debilitating lung disease and fully depend on home oxygen therapy to help them manage their disease. As Congress looks for ways to improve our health-care system, I understand that policymakers are also looking for ways to cut costs. I fear that in the process of cost cutting, they will cut Medicare funding for home oxygen.
Just this year, Medicare funding for home oxygen was reduced dramatically — with cuts of 27 percent taking effect in January. From a patient's perspective, cuts of this magnitude are very troubling because such cuts ultimately impact patients by placing tremendous strain on those who provide us with care, equipment, maintenance and 24-hour emergency service. As someone who relies on my home oxygen provider to breathe, the threat of cuts concerns me greatly.
As members of Congress work to reform the health care system, I hope they recognize that cuts in funding will not result in improved access to care or higher quality services. For someone who relies on home oxygen therapy, preserving Medicare funding for home oxygen therapy is a top reform priority. Nothing else matters when you can't breath.
Your attention in this urgent issue is appreciated.