Government Affairs Activities

Medicare Respiratory Therapist Access Act

The AARC is embarking on a new legislative initiative for 2013.  The legislation would amend Medicare Part B to add coverage of pulmonary self-management education and training services when furnished by qualified respiratory therapists in the physician practice setting to Medicare patients who have been diagnosed with COPD, asthma, pulmonary hypertension, pulmonary fibrosis and cystic fibrosis. If enacted, this new benefit will not only enhance patient access to respiratory therapists, it will also provide Medicare pulmonary patients with the tools they need to lead healthier lives through self-management of their disease.

Outpatient Pulmonary Rehabilitation

After several years of effort Congress enacted legislation that creates an outpatient pulmonary rehabilitation benefit under the Medicare program. The benefit was implemented nationwide on January 1, 2010. Along with our pulmonary community partners, the AARC worked diligently to first enact the legislation and then to assure that the regulations that implemented the law were as comprehensive as the Medicare Agency would permit.

The AARC has developed a list of Frequently Asked Questions (members only).

In addition, the AARC, working with other pulmonary organizations and societies, developed a Pulmonary Rehabilitation Toolkit which serves as guidance in calculating the appropriate charges for the single bundled code G0424 that identifies the pulmonary rehabilitation benefit.

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)

The AARC has enhanced its communication with key departments within CMS to resolve persistent concerns affecting the provision of respiratory therapy. We have received official clarification on issues such as acceptable inhaled medication delivery times, to the use of protocols, and clarification on who may write and/or sign orders for respiratory therapy services and within what timeframe.

Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and COPD Action Plan

COPD (the third leading cause of death in America) receives limited focus by government health agencies, despite the 15 million Americans who are diagnosed with this chronic disease. The AARC, along with like minded associations, continues to advocate for Congress to provide funding to the CDC to specifically track, collect data and do focused research on COPD.

Home Medical Equipment and Care

Competitive bidding has become a key issue when it comes to the homecare industry. With much debate about the transparency and effectiveness of the bidding process established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), many questions have been raised about the dire impact it has had on the industry as a whole but more important on Medicare beneficiaries and their access to quality care.

To date, attempts to repeal the law in its entirety have not been successful. AARC supported the repeal amendment. Of late, however, a new proposal is being considered on the Hill to replace competitive bidding with an alternative referred to as the Market Pricing Program (MPP). This program is designed to replace the current flawed Competitive Bidding Program with a fair and equitable program based on sound economic principles that instills competition while maintaining beneficiary access to quality items and services.

Homebound Medicare patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), i.e., emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and other pulmonary diseases frequently rely on the uninterrupted use of complex respiratory equipment in order to live or, at the very least, maintain their expected quality of life. That is why Medicare patients with pulmonary conditions must be assured of the safe and effective access and use of appropriate medical equipment in their home. As advocates for pulmonary patients everywhere, AARC has urged Congress to enact the Market Pricing Program. 

Oxygen Use On Airlines

AARC has long supported federal action to require airlines to permit patients who use approved portable oxygen concentrators and other respiratory equipment to take their equipment on board with a minimum of red tape and cost. After several years where this was an option for airlines, the Department of Transportation (DOT) implemented final rules that now make it mandatory that airlines permit patients with approved respiratory equipment on board. The AARC applauds the foresight of the DOT in their recognition and support of oxygen dependent patients.

RTs and Disaster Response

The AARC continues to assist the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in its efforts to prepare and respond to natural or manmade disasters. The AARC has worked with the Office of Mass Casualty Planning, which has recognized that the nation needs to have a cohort of respiratory therapists who can be called up by the Federal government in times of natural or manmade emergencies. In addition, the AARC received a contract from HHS to conduct the first of its kind National Ventilator Survey. This was a historic request for the association and one that we were proud to take on as a contractor. The AARC has developed a document to be used by the state, local and federal governments on the appropriate acquisition of ventilators.

Congressional COPD Caucus

AARC continues to work with Congressional COPD Caucus to raise the profile and advocate for legislation that targets and addresses the needs of the pulmonary patient.

Tobacco/Smoking Cessation

AARC continues to participate in Coalition efforts to enhance regulation of the tobacco industry. Our focus is both national (support for greater government regulation over tobacco products) and state directed. Our focus on state issues range from supporting increased excise taxes on tobacco products, supporting state efforts to restrict smoking in the work and other public places and urging states to effectively allocate Tobacco Settlement funds for health promotion and smoking cessation activities.

The AARC has analyzed and provided an extensive document that explains the recent Medicare coverage policy on smoking cessation.

CPT Codes

The AARC has a representative on the Health Care Advisory Committee to the AMA’s CPT Coding Editorial Panel. The Editorial Panel assesses the requests for and determines the need for new procedure codes. This provides the AARC with an opportunity to comment, from the respiratory therapy perspective on any proposed changes including additions, revisions and deletions of codes.

Asthma Awareness

The AARC participates in the annual Asthma Awareness Day on Capitol Hill, with the goal of educating members of Congress and their staff on this important issue. Respiratory therapists volunteer to provide spirometry testing to the public and Capitol Hill Congressional staff. We also provide information on the profession of respiratory therapy.

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