Starck: ‘Patients aren’t getting prescribed oxygen’

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Thursday, August 9, 2018

YARMOUTH, Maine – Home oxygen therapy has been hit especially hard by competitive bidding, so CMS’s plans to retool its program are encouraging, says Dan Starck, chairman of the Council for Quality Respiratory Care.

“It’s good to see the administration listening to the industry and working with the industry,” he said. “Our goal now is to get it finalized and make sure we have a sustainable long-term process available to us.”

The CQRC is a coalition of leading home oxygen provider and manufacturing companies: Apria Healthcare, Lincare, Rotech, AeroCare, Preferred Homecare, Philips, ResMed and Life Care Solutions.

Starck, who is also CEO of Apria, spoke with HME News recently about the impact of the bidding program on providers and beneficiaries.

HME News:Do you think oxygen has been hit harder by competitive bidding than other product categories?

Dan Starck: I believe so. There’s still a fair amount of cost associated with providing and servicing oxygen equipment. It’s pretty tough to do it at the rates that are out there. AAHomecare has released a study that says (the number of providers has decreased) from 10,000 to 6,000 since 2014. That’s a significant reduction that has been pretty impactful.

HME:Where are all the oxygen patients going?

Starck:One aspect nobody talks about is that (oxygen utilization is) not growing as fast as COPD is in the U.S. At the same time, we have competitive bidding and there’s been an increase in the amount of administrative work to get a patient eligible. Common consensus in the industry is it is so hard for a physician to get an oxygen patient on service that the (early stage) patients aren’t getting prescribed oxygen and they are just waiting longer to prescribe oxygen.

HME:Do you think providers will return to Medicare at the current payment amounts on Jan. 1, when an “any willing provider” provision could go into effect?

Starck:We’d really like to see a tweak done in this gap period on the rates. We are trying to formulate some comments around the volume issue, which is concerning. If you bid, you expect to have a smaller number of providers you are competing against. I don’t know that a bunch of providers are going to come back in or what’s going to happen, but it does change the landscape.