WASHINGTON, DC - In an effort help and protect more than one million Medicare beneficiaries who currently receive oxygen in their homes, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS), today introduced the Home Oxygen Patient Protection (HOPP) Act. This bill would reverse a provision that was included in the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act requiring Medicare beneficiaries receiving home oxygen therapy to purchase the equipment after 36 months."More than one million Medicare recipients suffer from chronic respiratory illness requiring oxygen therapy for their survival. Medical oxygen is a prescription drug and it is essential that these patients receive this oxygen safely," stated Reed. "The current regulations place an undue burden on patients, many of whom are elderly, and removes the important patient-provider relationship that has long been established in the field of oxygen therapy."Prior to implementation of this ownership requirement provision, Medicare patients receiving oxygen treatment were able to indefinitely rent oxygen equipment. This allowed homecare companies to provide 24-hour emergency on-call service to assist patients with any problems or failures. When patients are required to purchase their oxygen equipment, repair and trouble-shooting services are no longer available, forcing many of these patients to self-medicate or attempt equipment repairs on their own. Medical oxygen is a drug that can only be prescribed by a physician specifically for individual patient use, and it is dangerous if not administered, used or transported properly. It is heavily regulated by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT). A number of health organizations including the American Lung Association have expressed serious concerns about the health safety aspects of the new Medicare policy."Home oxygen therapy helps to provide comfort to sufferers of chronic respiratory illness by allowing them to receive treatment in their homes, but it can also be very dangerous if it is not used appropriately. Putting the lives of these patients at risk in an attempt to cut down on costs is simply unacceptable," Reed stated.Home oxygen therapy has proven to be a cost effective method of treatment. In 2002, hospitalizations from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), one of the most prevalent respiratory diseases, totaled 673,000 with an average cost of $4,603 per day. In stark contrast, the cost of home oxygen is only $7.62 per day, or $2,781 annually. "Chronic respiratory illness is devastating and debilitating," concluded Reed. "It is essential that those suffering from these conditions receive the best care available without the additional and potentially life-threatening burden of trying to repair and maintain their oxygen equipment. I will work with my colleagues to ensure that these Medicare patients are again able to receive life-saving assistance and help improve both their safety and overall quality of life."-end-