February 28, 2024

Cassidy, Warner, Klobuchar Introduce Legislation to Create Easier Access to Supplemental Oxygen for Medicare Beneficiaries

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Mark Warner (D-VA), and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) introduced legislation to ease access to supplemental oxygen for Medicare beneficiaries. The Supplemental Oxygen Access Reform (SOAR) Act of 2024 would establish a new payment methodology for non-liquid oxygen, allowing for most Medicare beneficiaries to be covered under the base payment levels.

“Patients who need supplemental oxygen often have other health problems. Making it easier to get their oxygen is one less thing they must worry about,” said Dr. Cassidy. 

“Respiratory care is lifesaving for so many patients, but too often access to this care is cost-prohibitive or simply not accessible. This legislation will ensure that supplemental oxygen is affordable and accessible for Medicare patients, allowing them to live the healthier, more active lives they deserve,” said Senator Warner. 

“Supplemental oxygen is a life-sustaining treatment for individuals suffering from respiratory and heart diseases, and it should be accessible to patients who need it,” said Senator Klobuchar. “This bipartisan legislation will protect access for seniors on Medicare who use supplemental oxygen both in and away from their homes.” 

“Today is an important day that has been years in the making for the American Lung Association and so many of the people who we serve who rely on supplemental oxygen every day. Thanks to advancements in research and treatment, most people living with severe lung disease can live active lives. Unfortunately, too many people face challenges in getting the right type and levels of oxygen required to do day-to-day activities. This is why the SOAR Act is critical to the 1.5 million people in the U.S. who need supplemental oxygen. Thank you to Senators Bill Cassidy, Mark Warner and Amy Klobuchar for championing this legislation. The American Lung Association urges members of Congress to cosponsor and swiftly pass this truly life-changing bill,” said Harold Wimmer, American Lung Association President.

“For years, AARC has advocated for patient access to respiratory therapist care outside the acute care setting,” said Carl Hinkson MS, RRT-ACCS, NPS, FAARC, President of American Association for Respiratory Care. “AARC is proud to stand with the coalition in creating a future where supplemental oxygen is available and affordable and patients have access to expert care from a respiratory therapist to return to a fuller and healthier life.”

“Thousands of people living with serious lung and respiratory diseases are confined to their homes, struggling for each breath because they are unable to access the supplemental oxygen they need,” said Scott Staszak, Chief Operating Officer of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. “We applaud Senator Bill Cassidy, Senator Mark Warner and Senator Amy Klobuchar for their pivotal role in advancing crucial Oxygen Reform legislation to ensure that everyone will be able to breathe easier.”

“The SOAR Act represents a significant step towards ensuring comprehensive oxygen reform. The CQRC thanks Senators Cassidy, Warner and Klobuchar for their leadership on this bill and urges Congress to seize this opportunity and advance the SOAR Act without delay,” said Dan Starck, Interim Chair of the Council for Quality Respiratory Care. “This bipartisan legislation is a beacon of hope for patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, and communities, promising improved access to supplemental oxygen and respiratory therapy to safeguard and enhance health and quality of life.”

“As an association focused on improving care within chest medicine, we believe that access to oxygen is critical for many of our patients,” said Jack D. Buckley, MD, FCCP, President of the American College of the Chest Physicians. “This is one of the main advocacy pillars for our organization because it is so crucial to maintaining the quality of life for patients struggling with chronic lung disease. Without adequate access to oxygen, these patients have enormous difficulty with normal daily activities, such as traveling to the grocery store or getting to their next doctor’s appointment.”

“Many people living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, are struggling to lead more active and productive lives because Medicare policies unreasonably limit their access to supplemental oxygen therapy,” said Dr. Jean Wright, CEO of the COPD Foundation. “We are grateful to Senators Cassidy, Warner and Klobuchar for leading legislation to restore and update these critical services.”

“As president of the American Thoracic Society, I applaud Senator Bill Cassidy, Senator Mark Warner and Senator Amy Klobuchar for introducing the Supplemental Oxygen Access Reform Act – SOAR – to reform Medicare’s reimbursement of supplemental oxygen. The current Medicare system for providing supplemental oxygen does not serve patient needs creating needless suffering. Patients have suffered from low quality equipment to supply their oxygen. They have suffered from insufficient support staff to fix problems with their oxygen service. They have suffered from being given big, bulky, heavy oxygen systems that prevent them from ever leaving their homes and being part of a larger community most of us take for granted. The legislation that Senators Cassidy, Warner and Klobuchar introduced today will reform Medicare’s oxygen reimbursement system by ensuring patients get the oxygen system they truly need and not just the cheapest oxygen system available. I look forward to working with Senators Cassidy, Warner and Klobuchar to see this important legislation enacted by Congress,” said M. Patricia Rivera, MD, ATSF, President of the American Thoracic Society.

“The engaged Senate leaders introducing the Medicare Oxygen Payment Reform are undertaking a great need for patients with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency. We have heard firsthand many shocking personal stories about patients not properly matched or trained on the oxygen equipment they need to breathe each day. This legislation will improve outcomes for all oxygen dependent patients in the U.S. The Alpha-1 Foundation is proud share with our patients that the Senate is helping with a solution that includes access to patient equipment and education,” said Scott Santarella, President and CEO of the Alpha-1 Foundation.

“I am so proud of Senator Bill Cassidy for taking the lead on this Medicare Oxygen Payment Reform Legislation for U.S. citizens dependent on oxygen. People with conditions, like Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency, who require oxygen in their daily lives have been suffering for too long to get the right type of equipment needed to breathe,” said Diana Patterson, Louisiana Alpha-1 patient.

The SOAR Act would:

  • Remove all oxygen and oxygen equipment from Medicare competitive bidding;
  • Establish a separate base payment rate for liquid oxygen with an add-on payment for liquid oxygen at 6 liters/minute and higher;
  • Create a new add-on to the supplemental oxygen rate to reimburse for respiratory therapist services when providing supplemental oxygen to Medicare beneficiaries; and
  • Establish protections for Medicare beneficiary supplemental oxygen users.

The SOAR Act is supported by the American Lung Association, American Association for Respiratory Care, Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, Council for Quality Respiratory Care, American College of the Chest Physicians, COPD Foundation, American Thoracic Society, and Alpha-1 Foundation.