CMS Takes Steps to Address Access Problems Related to Liquid Oxygen

photo of liquid oxygen

Respiratory therapists who treat patients prescribed liquid oxygen by their physician or who must receive high flow oxygen because of their medical condition, know that access has been a big problem since the inception of the competitive bidding program. Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) published a proposed rule to address the competitive bidding program for durable medical equipment in which the agency admitted for the first time that there are flaws in the program.

One area that CMS addressed in the proposed rule is supplemental oxygen. We applaud CMS for acknowledging the current classification and payment structure under competitive bidding is a disincentive for suppliers to furnish liquid oxygen to those in need of such therapy. To address the problem, CMS is proposing to establish new payment classes for oxygen and oxygen equipment which is a positive step in the right direction.

Currently portable gaseous and liquid oxygen equipment are combined into one payment class. CMS is proposing to split the class into two separate classes and add a class for liquid high-flow rate oxygen contents. Ultimately the goal is to increase payment for liquid oxygen; however, to do so, CMS must ensure the payment classes overall remain budget neutral which requires reducing payment in other oxygen classes to balance the mark-up to liquid oxygen.

The AARC is working closely with others in the pulmonary and patient advocacy community to provide joint comments and recommendations to CMS prior to the September 10 deadline for public input on the proposed rule.