Many Worried about Changes to Medicare

Published by Steve Hedberg on December 15, 2008 Under Medicaid, Medicare

Changes to Medicare have many seniors worried about their supply of oxygen, but top Medicare officials say these changes are not cause for concern. These officials spoke out today to stop what they said were rumors started by Medicare Equipment suppliers.

The changes are the result of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, which was passed in congress and makes several cuts to Medicare. In an effort to reduce the $3 billion that is spent on oxygen equipment every year, some of these changes affect the way oxygen machines are covered, beginning January 1st, Medicare will no longer cover the cost of the rental or unscheduled maintenance of oxygen machines.

They will, however, still provide monthly oxygen and maintenance for the machine every six months. This will only affect people who have been using the oxygen machine for more than three years.

The companies that supply these machines and the oxygen have a contract that requires them to maintain the machine for five years, so they are unable to remove any oxygen machines. Doing so would be illegal. Instead, in two years later, after their contract expires, Medicare will begin paying reimbursement again.

The companies that provide the oxygen are concerned, because they will be paid a capped amount every month for oxygen bottles, which is not directly tied to how much the individual uses.

Some companies, like the one owned by Mike Zelinskas of Centerville, Ohio, have even been mailing letters to people stating that they will have to pick up the oxygen machines in January, but this is a lie. When asked, Zelinskas stated that the point of the letters was to get people calling their senators, but he would not be allowed to remove the machines.

This type of actions by oxygen supply companies have many worried about the quality of service that will be provided by these companies after they stop receiving their reimbursements.

Medicare Officials say these fears are unfounded, because they will still pay for semi-annual maintenance and oxygen supplies. They stated that Medicare pays over $7,000 every year to cover rental costs for a $600 machine. To this, oxygen equipment suppliers stated that this cost helps to cover the costs of keeping the machine in repair every month.

Oxygen equipment is classified as durable medical equipment, which is covered in part by Medicare. Electric wheelchairs, adjustable beds, and eye glasses are other examples of durable medical equipment.

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