Wisconsin Overcomes O2 Licensure- The Secret to WAMES’ Success

Posted on in HME Government Issues

[caption id="attachment_3198" align="alignright" width="300"]wisconsin overcomes o2 licensure Governor Scott Walker (seated) signs into law 2015 Senate Bill 13. Working together to help pass this oxygen license were (from left), Jean McAdams, WAMES Board Member and former owner, Community HME; Donna Smith, WAMES Board Member and Home Care Medical Director of Respiratory; Jim Spellman, WAMES President and Home Care Medical Director of Operations; Rick Adamich, WAMES Board Member and Oxygen One President; Senator Paul Farrow; and Scott Rausch, Chief of Staff at Wisconsin State Senate, Senator Paul Farrow.[/caption] By Emily Harkin, VGM Government Relations In 2014, Wisconsin DME providers were informed that in order to dispense oxygen, by law, they must have a pharmacist on staff. Over the past year, WAMES was able to work with state senators on the creation and passing of Senate Bill 13. This bill establishes a licensure program to be administered by the board for persons that dispense medical oxygen directly to patients. Under the bill, such a person, if licensed by the board, is exempt from pharmacist licensing requirements for activities that fall within the scope of the license. Also, subject to certain exceptions, any person that provides home medical oxygen directly to patients must be licensed by the board. WAMES was very happy to report that on March 23, 2015, Governor Scott Walker signed S.13, allowing DME providers to dispense oxygen if they are licensed by the board. We were able to interview the WAMES board members about this process. Here’s what they had to say. VGM Asked: How will the oxygen license help DME suppliers in WI? What was the battle?

WAMES Answered: In April of 2014, CMS found providers in Wisconsin non-compliant with the WI state statute that requires a pharmacist to be on staff to dispense oxygen. The license now helps all Wisconsin providers who dispense oxygen to be in compliance with the state law. For years they accepted license to dispense oxygen as a Wholesale Distributors License. Then in a moment’s notice it changed, CMS got involved and cited the Wisconsin providers for non-compliance - and although the statute did state companies needed a pharmacist on staff to dispense oxygen, it was not the practice.
VGM Asked: What was the time frame you worked with - how long did this process take?
WAMES Answered: Providers were notified in late March 2014 of the non-compliance issue from CMS. We worked on it for just under one year with the governor signing the new bill (SB13) March 24 of this year.
VGM Asked: What was the most difficult part of the process?
WAMES Answered: Not having any knowledge of how to go about changing the current law, and who we needed to work with to take on this task. WAMES was very fortunate to have established senate relationships on the state level. Their staff was very willing to walk us through the process. It seemed like the right people came to us at the right time to help us through the process. We had support from both sides of the aisle which was very helpful and needed.
VGM Asked: Do you have any advice for anyone going through this process?
WAMES Answered: One factor that was helpful to our cause was WAMES having close relationships with state senators and representatives that understand and support your issues. Another key factor was having a group of people that were able and willing to follow up on emails, schedule and attend meetings and being available on short notice to deal with things that come up. WAMES had one person who kept things moving and kept the group informed.
VGM Asked: How are you going to celebrate? Or have you already?
WAMES Answered: We did not have a formal celebration, but experienced much relief and satisfaction of getting the license across the finish line in the time frame we needed to.
Congratulations to WAMES for their success on this issue. VGM has developed a toolkit to help state associations and providers get started in the licensure process. Click here to view a list of resources available to members.