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Dr. Bucshon Introduces Bill to Improve Access to Supplemental Oxygen

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Representative Larry Bucshon, M.D. (R-IN-08) joined a bipartisan group of Members of Congress to introduce the Supplemental Oxygen Access Reform (SOAR) Act. The legislation makes critical reforms to improve access to supplemental oxygen for Medicare beneficiaries. Dr. Bucshon was joined in introduction by Reps. David Valadao (CA-22), Julia Brownley (CA-26), and Adrian Smith (NE-03).  Companion legislation has been introduced in the United States Senate by Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA).

“Access to supplemental oxygen stands as a cornerstone of healthcare for countless Hoosiers and Americans grappling with respiratory challenges,” said Dr. Bucshon. “As a cardiothoracic surgeon for over 15 years, I’ve experienced firsthand how important it is to safeguard access to supplemental oxygen, and as a legislator I recognize the need for comprehensive reforms. I am proud to help introduce this critical legislation to ensure the availability of this vital medical resource for years to come.”

“Supplemental oxygen is a lifeline for so many people, but too many struggle to access the oxygen that works best for their lifestyle,” said Congressman Valadao. “This bill makes it easier for people to get the oxygen treatment they need to live healthy, active lives.”

“No one should suffer the pain and fear of struggling to breathe. This bill will help ensure that the more than 1.5 million American seniors who rely on supplemental oxygen will have access to the care and portable oxygen supplies they need to lead more fulfilling and healthier lives,” said Congresswoman Julia Brownley.

“Providing coverage flexibility for Medicare beneficiaries who depend on supplemental oxygen will improve access to vital care, particularly in rural areas where patients may be more than an hour drive from respiratory treatment,” said Congressman Smith. “I look forward to advancing this bipartisan solution and thank Reps. Valadao, Brownley, and Bucshon for their cooperation in introducing this legislation.”

The legislation is supported by the American Lung Association, Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, COPD Foundation, American Thoracic Society, American College of Chest Physicians, Council for Quality Respiratory Care, and American Association for Respiratory Care.

“Thank you to Representatives Valadao, Brownley, Bucshon and A. Smith for championing the SOAR Act, which is critical legislation for 1.5 million people in the U.S. who need supplemental oxygen. Thanks to advancements in research and treatment, most people living with severe lung disease can lead active lives. Unfortunately, too many people face challenges in getting the right type and levels of oxygen required to do day-to-day activities. The SOAR Act aims to give people access to the supplemental oxygen they need. The American Lung Association urges members of Congress to cosponsor and swiftly pass this truly life-changing bill,” said Harold Wimmer, President and CEO of the American Lung Association.

"On behalf of more than 250,000 Americans affected by pulmonary fibrosis, we thank Representatives Valadao, Brownley, Bucshon and A. Smith for championing the SOAR Act," said Scott Staszak, Interim Chief Executive Officer of the Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. "For people living with severe lung or respiratory conditions, access to appropriate supplemental oxygen is a vital necessity. Our commitment remains steadfast in ensuring that patients secure the specific oxygen therapy crucial for their survival."

“For people with COPD, supplemental oxygen isn’t just a convenience – it’s a lifeline that directly impacts their ability to breathe, function, and maintain quality of life,” said COPD Foundation CEO Jean Wright, M.D., MBA. “Without access to supplemental oxygen therapy, they struggle to lead active and productive lives, and may become unable to leave their homes. This bill will ensure that every patient covered by Medicare can access the oxygen they need, when they need it, without unnecessary barriers or restrictions. The leadership of Representatives Valadao, Brownley, Bucshon and A. Smith comes at a critical time for supplemental oxygen reform.”

"As a California lung transplant pulmonologist based in the San Francisco Bay Area, I know from firsthand experience that the Medicare supplemental oxygen benefit is not serving my patients well.  The patients I care for have advanced lung disease, and in the pre-transplant period they frequently require much higher oxygen flow rates than portable oxygen concentrators can deliver. Due to a near collapse of the oxygen market, my patients now rely in very heavy and inefficient oxygen canisters when they leave their homes, putting them at constant risk of running out of oxygen. In essence, the current Medicare supplemental oxygen benefit entraps them at home, and prevents them from leading productive lives.  The legislation introduced today by Representatives Valadao, Brownley, Buschon and A. Smith will make essential changes to the Medicare supplemental oxygen benefit that will help my patients and will provide greater access to higher quality supplemental oxygen systems.  I am grateful for the leadership of Representatives Valadao, Brownley, Bucshon and A. Smith and urge Congress to quickly pass this legislation," said Nicholas Kolaitis, MD, member of the ATS Health Policy Committee.

"It is encouraging to see this important bill brought in front of Congress for approval," said Jack D. Buckley, MD, MPH, FCCP, President of the American College of Chest Physicians. "As an organization of pulmonary experts, we see firsthand the suffering of those with severe chronic lung diseases, like interstitial lung disease, who lack sufficient access to necessary oxygen therapies. We need the support of Congress to improve the quality of life of the 1.5 million patients who benefit from access to supplemental oxygen through this bill.” 

“CQRC applauds Representatives Valadao, Brownley, Bucshon and A. Smith for their leadership on this important bill and calls upon Congress to support comprehensive oxygen reform. Doing so will help protect access to respiratory care for patients. CQRC is proud to advocate for this bill alongside patients, family advocates, physicians, and providers, and we urge lawmakers to pass the SOAR Act," said Dan Starck, Interim Chair of the Council for Quality Respiratory Care. “The SOAR Act symbolizes hope for patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, and communities who have been seeking broad oxygen reform for many years. The coalition of bipartisan lawmakers, beneficiary advocates, experts, and stakeholders that has come together around this bill is encouraging and inspiring. I am truly excited for what this bill will mean to the future of supplemental oxygen and respiratory therapy, and most importantly, our patients.”

“Along with our coalition partners, we are hopeful that this legislation will create a future where improved patient access to respiratory therapy outside the acute care setting allows supplemental oxygen patients to lead fuller and healthier lives without financial hardship worries,” said AARC President Carl Hinkson MSc, RRT, RRT-ACCS, RRT-NPS, FAARC. “AARC is deeply appreciative of Representatives Valadao, Bucshon, Smith, and Brownley for their sponsorship.”  


Currently, Medicare covers oxygen as a durable medical equipment (DME) benefit for patients who experience oxygen desaturation, a lower level of oxygen in the blood due to lung disease or other chronic conditions. Supplemental oxygen can be delivered in several forms, including compressed or liquid oxygen, and portable or stationary oxygen. Since 2011, CMS implemented the competitive bidding process for supplemental oxygen, causing payment rates for all types of oxygen to drop substantially. Liquid oxygen is lightweight, portable and can deliver oxygen at higher levels for people with more advanced lung disease, which is almost impossible for patients to access.

The SOAR Act aims to address these challenges in accessing supplemental oxygen:

·    Removes all oxygen and oxygen equipment from Medicare competitive bidding;

·    Establishes a separate payment rate for liquid oxygen;

·    Creates a new add-on to the supplemental oxygen rate to reimburse for respiratory therapist services to Medicare beneficiaries; and

·    Establishes protections for Medicare beneficiaries who use supplemental oxygen.

Read the full text of the bill here.

Congressman Larry Bucshon, M.D. represents Indiana’s 8th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives and is a senior member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.