Home Ventilator, Oxygen, and Sleep Suppliers at the Forefront of the COVID-19 Response

CQRC submits letter to Medicare agency detailing how home respiratory suppliers are critical in the response with coronavirus, urges agency to immediately lift regulatory barriers for patient care

Washington, DC, March 14, 2020 --(PR.com)-- The Council for Quality Respiratory Care (CQRC) – a coalition of the nation's leading home oxygen therapy provider and manufacturing companies – sent an urgent letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma this week, outlining how the home respiratory sector is ready and prepared to help patients address the COVID-2019 emergency, requesting the easing of regulatory restrictions that impede the timely delivery of respiratory care for patients in need of therapy, including non-invasive ventilators.

Recognizing the central role that home respiratory care plays in the fight against the novel coronavirus, the letter emphasizes suppliers’ and providers’ commitment to ensuring access to the equipment and supplies patients diagnosed with the disease need to recover. In order to fully serve patients living with COVID-19, the CQRC informed CMS of several regulatory restrictions that could be addressed to eliminate barriers to timely delivery of respiratory care.

In an effort to protect patients and the health care personnel who provide the equipment and services to patients in their home, CQRC urged CMS to prioritize the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for home respiratory therapy suppliers. “Our patients and our staff are our first priorities,” said Dan Starck, Chairman of the CQRC. “It is important that both stay safe during this unprecedented time.”

Specifically, CQRC asked CMS to waive the current requirement that home oxygen, BiPAP or ventilator coverage and reimbursement for Medicare beneficiaries be limited to patients with chronic conditions. As more physicians prescribe home respiratory therapy to treat the novel coronavirus, CQRC urges CMS to allow for the provision and reimbursement of these services if a beneficiary has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19 and has been prescribed the home therapy.

Doing so would allow patients diagnosed with the virus, an acute condition, to be treated effectively in the home setting, which would also ensures the availability of hospital beds for higher acuity care patients—particularly in rural areas. This position is supported by a new discussion paper published by the National Academy of Medicine on March 5 which found that greater utilization of home oxygen could address potential hospital overflow issues related to the COVID-19 emergency.

In addition, CQRC asked CMS to reduce burdensome paperwork on physicians and suppliers in order to help ensure timely access to the home respiratory therapy prescribed by doctors. As an alternative, CQRC urges CMS to allow the Certificate of Medical Necessity, the test results confirming diagnosis of COVID-19 and the prescription to be sufficient documentation for determining medical necessity for patients with a confirmed COVID-19 diagnosis who have been prescribed home respiratory therapy for the condition.

In their commitment to serving patients during this exceptional time and beyond, CQRC and its members asked CMS to suspend adding non-invasive ventilators from the Round 2021 Competitive Bidding Program, extend the current blended rate in rural non-CBAs in 2021 and delay implementation of Round 2021.

The CQRC is asking CMS to consider these policy modifications because suppliers are already preparing for the Competitive Bidding Program’s next round of contracts. In some cases, this means anticipating no longer providing services in certain areas and reducing capacity at a time when patient need is actually increasing. Considering the likely increase in patient need as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing capacity and asking suppliers to accept lower rates when the need for additional capacity is what is actually needed creates a conflicting demand on the sector.

“In order to ensure sufficient supply and capacity throughout the COVID-19 emergency, delaying competitive bidding should be considered now to ensure that patients in need can receive oxygen, ventilation, and sleep therapies in a timely manner,” Starck added.

Protecting access to home respiratory therapy will be crucial to helping patients diagnosed with the novel coronavirus, access the home respiratory therapy that their doctors prescribe.

To read the complete letter, click here.

About the Council for Quality Respiratory Care
The CQRC is a coalition of the nation's seven leading home oxygen therapy provider and manufacturing companies. To learn more, visit cqrc.org and follow CQRC on Twitter at @TheCQRC.
Ellen Almond