AARC.org In the News

AARC Celebrates RC Week with the Introduction of Medicare Respiratory Initiative - HR 3968

October 25, 2007


What You Can Do

  1. Write to your U.S. Representatives to support HR 3968.
  1. Write to your U.S. Senators to urge their sponsorship of a companion bill in the Senate.

The AARC reached a milestone on behalf of patients today, as Congressman Mike Ross (D-AR), an influential member of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, formally introduced a bill based on our Medicare Respiratory Therapy Initiative into the House of Representatives.

The AARC developed the initiative to improve patient access to RRTs in settings outside of the acute care hospital.

Also lauding this news are patients and physicians who support this legislation.

“As an individual with COPD, I very much value the respiratory therapist as an asset to help me achieve a better quality of life,” said John Walsh, a COPD patient with Alpha-1. “Current reimbursement through Medicare does not provide the regular access or consistency in care that this Initiative calls for. It would allow a respiratory therapist to be more readily available to COPD patients like myself."

Dr. Stuart Stoloff, MD, also applauded this move saying, “Respiratory therapists are a vital part of the team for educating patients about the appropriate use of inhaled medications in respiratory disease.  Their knowledge of medications combined with their teaching expertise can facilitate improved care for patients with respiratory problems.” Stoloff is a family practice physician in Carson City, NV, and was an influential member of the NHLBI’s EPR-3 asthma panel.

The American Thoracic Society has also come out with a letter of support that states: “The legislation will give physicians and advanced respiratory therapists the flexibility to provide needed care to Medicare beneficiaries in the outpatient, physician’s office or patient’s home settling.”

HR 3968 will revise the Medicare law to permit qualified respiratory therapists to provide certain respiratory therapy services, such as smoking cessation, asthma management, and medication education, while under the general supervision of a physician (e.g. without the physician having to be physically present or on site).  Oxygen patients at home and patients living in rural areas would be among those who could benefit from better access to RRTs.

If passed into law, the legislation will significantly improve the ability of RRTs with a bachelor’s degree to deliver these services in the physician’s office, home, and other alternate sites of care. A bachelor's is the minimum recognized under the government's Part B Medicare program.

But this bill would benefit everyone in the profession by validating the vital role RTs play in the health care system and by opening the door to new opportunities for therapists in the future. To learn more about the details of HR 3968, the Medicare RT Initiative, please go to our Frequently Asked Questions page.

“We applaud the leadership offered by Congressman Ross and urge you to contact your members in the House to gain co-sponsorship,” says AARC President Toni Rodriguez.“Our real work begins now. We, as AARC members, must begin gaining support for this initiative, patient by patient, legislator by legislator. That work can only be accomplished by the grassroots respiratory therapist.”

AARC's Director of Government Affairs, Cheryl West, says that our next steps will be to seek a companion bill in the Senate. Then a full-scale effort to engage co-sponsors and advance this legislation will go into high gear. "This is a journey, a quest we have been on as a profession for years. Respiratory therapists need to be able to practice and be covered by Medicare in all of those settings where their patients are. This bill would step us in that direction."

Visit the AARC’s Capitol Connection web site to learn more about HR 3968 and use our online tools to contact your members of Congress today.