Op-Ed: As COVID emergency ends, don’t lose sight of what worked
Supplemental oxygen therapy patients and providers in North Carolina and throughout the country are anxiously awaiting guidance and action from the federal Medicare program as the Public Health Emergency (PHE) connected to the COVID-19 pandemic is set to end on May 11. This includes the more than 525,000 North Carolinians living with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and other respiratory disease.
One of the biggest questions on the minds of supplemental oxygen therapy patients and providers alike is what will happen to the estimated 1 million new patients who started home oxygen therapy during the PHE. At the onset of the pandemic, Medicare took a wise course of action by loosening some of the more burdensome requirements for patients to prove they have a medical need for oxygen treatments – primarily older patients managing respiratory diseases like COPD. This helped ensure access to care and home oxygen therapy for patients during one of the single biggest challenges our nation’s health care system has ever faced.
Now, however, as the PHE ends and Medicare looks to reinstate some of its requirements they loosened, there is a growing concern among the home oxygen therapy community that those patients who started supplemental oxygen therapy during the pandemic could be required to start this onerous process all over again. If that happens, it could undermine access and disrupt critical oxygen therapies for a massive number of Americans.