Oxygen Patient Speaks Out Regarding Medicare Cuts

Posted on in HME Government Issues

As we fight to stop Medicare’s ongoing reimbursement cuts, it is important that beneficiaries join our industry in speaking out. People for Quality Care, patient advocacy division of VGM Group, Inc., works each day to elevate the concerns of beneficiaries to Congress and recently received a powerful letter from Jayne Zajac, an oxygen patient being impacted by reimbursement cuts. Her story is a reminder that beneficiaries are not remaining silent about Medicare’s move to limit their care. 

“My oxygen is now limited in emergencies.”

Jane Zajac shares how Medicare’s reimbursement cuts to equipment have limited her oxygen supply in emergency situations. This letter was sent to Connecticut Congressional members and originally published on Dear Medicare.

To Whom This May Concern,

I received a letter from my durable medical equipment (DME) provider stating they will no longer be providing unlimited free oxygen in power outages of any type because of environmental conditions that are beyond their control and no reimbursement is available from Medicare. Enough tanks were always provided in years past and up until now. (Oxygen is free except to those of us who live on tank oxygen.)

In the letter from the DME provider, it suggests we get a generator or make plans to go to a safe place. In winter when it’s 25 degrees, there are many days and nights I am house-bound as I cannot breathe outside. I cannot see myself going out to fill a generator with gas and trying to get it started, all the while dragging my oxygen tank behind me. Good chance it’s not going to happen. As far as going somewhere safe when I don’t have power, there’s a good chance in winter – with a bad storm – other towns are without power, also. Maybe the emergency shelter here in town would be willing to take us in with our concentrators; who knows how many of us there are in any given town, or how we get there.

Next would be getting my concentrator to my van. Maybe in the summer I could carry it but not in winter and doing all this while dragging my oxygen tank behind me. I live alone and I do have the help of some friends, but this is no way to live. What about all the others who, like me, use oxygen and may live on a second floor or in a senior housing complex; how are they going to cope with this?

“I don’t blame my DME as Medicare is squeezing them. In turn, they have to short us until there is only big-business oxygen companies who can absorb the cuts and keep on going. Remember, insurance does not pay for emergency backup oxygen.”

I have worked hard to come to where I am today. I have had lung volume reduction surgery (LVRS) to enable me to breathe better, and I go to a gym on a regular basis. If I hadn’t had the surgery and didn’t exercise, I might very well be in a wheelchair today – or dead.

You wouldn’t breathe from a tank unless it was needed. This is not a scam. When you cannot breathe, it’s a scary panic place where you may die – all to save a dollar.

When I called my DME, I was told that the tanks I have will be filled, but no new ones will be given to me. I use a concentrator at home and tanks when I go outside my home, so in a power outage, the tanks will have to stretch until the company comes to refill them, and how do you stretch oxygen – turn it down or shut it off? I don’t know what the DME will charge, so I don’t know if I could afford extra tanks. I am almost afraid to ask.

Why is Medicare not going after the people who scam them to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars with false billing? It doesn’t seem quite on the up and up that they’re trying to save a dollar on the backs of ordinary citizens.

Jane Zajac
Windsor, CT

People for Quality Care is working to coordinate an in-district meeting with Jane and her legislators and can do the same for your patients. Continue to follow Jane’s story on Dear Medicare. Encourage your patients to share their stories by calling 1-800-404-8702.