Oxygen bill ‘ready and waiting’

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Friday, September 11, 2020

WASHINGTON – The Energy and Commerce Committee in the House of Representatives is now on the hunt for a vehicle for H.R. 8158, a bill that would eliminate the budget neutrality requirement for home oxygen therapy. 

Industry stakeholders say it’s unlikely the bill will be attached to a continuing resolution that must be passed by Sept. 30, because Congress wants a “clean CR,” but there are other options, including possibly another COVID bill and a Medicare extenders package. 

“This is huge,” said Cara Bachenheimer, head of the government affairs practice at Brown & Fortunato, of the committee approving the bill on Sept. 9. “The bill is basically ready and waiting at the gate.” 

H.R. 8158 stems from H.R. 2771, which would eliminate the budget neutrality requirement but would also extend a 50/50 blended reimbursement rate in rural areas and introduce a 75/25 rate in non-rural, non-bid areas. 

With the 50/50 rates in effect through the end of the year and the 75/25 rates in effect through the public health emergency, the committee wanted to single out the provision eliminating the budget neutrality requirement. 

“It’s a great example of, progress is incremental,” Bachenheimer said. “We try to pack as much as possible into a bill, because we never know what will float and what won’t float. I see their point – we could be in the middle of next year before the pandemic ends.” 

While the committee searches for a vehicle, stakeholders are getting the Senate up to speed on H.R. 8158. 

“We don’t want anyone putting a hold on this going forward,” said Tom Ryan, president and CEO of AAHomecare. 

While the need to make the blended reimbursement rates permanent is still real and H.R. 2771 is “still alive,” stakeholders also want to recognize what a “significant win” it would be to eliminate the budget neutrality requirement, which has resulted in reimbursement in rural areas that’s 10% to 15% below reimbursement in competitive bidding areas. 

“The requirement just doesn’t make sense,” Ryan said. “We’ve been trying to adjust this for years.”