While Medicare has saved a great deal of money under competitive bidding, there have been problems and unforeseen consequences as a result. Many liquid oxygen users have experienced difficulties due to competitive bidding. Liquid oxygen is often a preferred mode of supplemental oxygen in that it is easily transported. Usually liquid oxygen must be delivered weekly resulting in making it more expensive for oxygen companies to provide versus compressed oxygen which can be delivered less frequently. Because many oxygen providers feel they cant profit from the reimbursement they are given, they have been systematically attempting to remove liquid oxygen from the market.
The COPD Foundation has received many reports of oxygen companies removing liquid oxygen from COPD patients and replacing the equipment with a home concentrator and compressed cylinders. This is a huge problem for high flow patients, and patients with limited physical ability, who often have difficulty transporting the weighty cylinders. In many instances the cylinders do not provide enough duration for patients to allow adequate mobility outside the home. As a result, many liquid supplemental oxygen users are restricted to their home -- affecting both their health and quality of life. This action on the part of suppliers is illegal and endangers patients.
Medicare rules specifically prohibit an oxygen supplier from changing the modality (compressed or liquid) of a patients oxygen without first obtaining the approval of the patient and their doctor, and developing a new letter of necessity to address the changes.
The COPD Foundation has also received reports that suppliers are reducing the number of compressed tanks they will deliver to an individual. It is very important that your doctor document the number of tanks you require, and under Medicare regulations, the supplier must provide what you require. The oxygen supplier also cannot require you to pick up your own tanks from the supplier. If this occurs please call the C.O.P.D. Information Line and discuss your situation.
Please also be aware that suppliers cannot terminate your service unless they provide you with another supplier. Additionally, your supplier cannot drop you at the end of the five year contract unless they find you another supplier who will provide the services you require.
If you are a supplemental oxygen user, it is very important to know your rights! Please download the Supplemental Oxygen Guide at: http://www.copdfoundation.org/What-is- COPD /Living-with-COPD /Oxygen-Therapy. aspx to understand all of your rights under Medicare!
The COPD Foundation is very concerned about the effects competitive bidding is having on our community and is working with other organizations to mitigate the impact being experienced by all supplemental oxygen users. In order to be successful it is important that our community notify us of any violation or unwanted changes to their oxygen therapy. Please call the C.O.P.D. Information Line at 866-316-2673 if you have been affected in any way. Your voice matters.