Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Who is the Secret "Oxygen Payments" Lawmaker?

For the second time in just a handful of days, the Wall Street Journal has mentioned a specific Washington event - recalled by White House budget chief Peter Orszag - that detailed a certain lawmaker's reaction to his assertion that health care costs must be kept under control. Members of Congress play a special role insofar as health care costs are concerned, as they control Medicare's bidding processes (or lack thereof), as well as the level at which Medicare will reimburse doctors for certain procedures. Anyways, Mr. Orszag reportedly told Laura Meckler of the WSJ that, during a recent meeting with lawmakers, his message of "cost savings" was interrupted by a representative who stated that her highest priority was "winning higher payments for oxygen suppliers". It appears as if Mr. Orszag, intent on avoiding the uproar that would result from his stating the actual identity of "oxygen supplier" lawmaker, has chosen to take a high road of sorts - and let somebody else figure out who this mystery lawmaker really is.

Thanks to the internet, we believe that we have developed a list of suspects, based on the small number of facts afforded us. The first bit of evidence to turn up is that the American Association for Homecare - an association that "advocates" (lobbies) on behalf of the homecare community (to Congress) - has been an ardent supporter of H.R.1077, the Medicare Home Oxygen Therapy Act of 2009 the Medicare Respiratory Therapy Initiative Act of 2009. The AAH even provides you with talking points, conveniently located on their website (and below) The AAHomecare's main thrust seems to be preventing the process of competitive bidding in the Medicare arena. As you can see, the talking points are very Obama-like; a.k.a assertions of savings are made without providing any supporting evidence.

Now, we assume that any lawmaker bold enough to introduce her oxygen-tank-payment concerns into a Cost Savings Meeting would be very likely to have sponsored or co-sponsored H.R.1077. A little research shows that this bill was sponsored and introduced by Rep.Mike Ross (D-AK), and co-sponsored by 23 other members of Congress. But wait; Mr. Orszag's account of the mystery reimburser identifies the Congressperson as a female, of which there are only a handful who have signed onto this bill. We have taken the liberty of listing them below:
  • Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
  • Rep. Lois Capps (D-CA)
  • Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)
So there you have it; by the power of deduction, we have determined that this infamous, mysterious Congressional grabber of pork is, in all likelihood, one of the Congress persons listed above. We will continue, in unrelenting fashion, to find out who this individual is. Tips welcome of course.

edit @ 2:30pm*Note: As was pointed out by a reader below, HR 3220 is a bill that would seem to be more directly applicable to the issue of the actual "oxygen". The problem is that HR 3220 is light on co-sponsors (only 1); therefore offering zero worthwhile "evidence". Our opinion diverges from the lobbyist commented below when he/she states that HR 1077 and HR 3220 are about completely different issues. It seems obvious to us though that providing Medicare coverage of respiratory therapists(HR 1077) is Quite related to reforming the reimbursement for home oxygen therapy services(HR 3220). For all practical purposes, we fail to see how there is actually any difference between the two, aside from the fact that HR 1077 appears to be the more inclusive of the two. Thank you for the comment though; we did get a bit sloppy on the reporting of this. Next up: an investigation into Rep. Tom Price (R-GA)

AAHomecare Competitive Bidding Talking Points 4.30 Sphere: Related Content


  1. First, you have the bill number wrong. It's H.R. 3220 -- not H.R. 1077. Second, you're perpetuating the bizarre idea that oxygen reimbursement has a snowball's chance in hell of going up. Whatever member of Congress Orszag spoke with was probably concerned about the cut to oxygen in the Medicare Modernization Act of 2003, the cut in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, and the oxygen cut in the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008. So let me get this straight -- it's a crime to be concerned about cuts to payments for medical oxygen, which keeps about a million Medicare beneficiaries alive? Oxygen reimbursement rates have been cut 27 percent in 2009 alone. You can find even more talking points and accurate information at www.aahomecare.org/oxygen or at www.aahomecare.org. If you'd like more corrections for your blog, please feel free to call me (a lobbyist for the American Association for Homecare) at 703-535-1881.

  2. You are correct on a technicality; H.R.3220 is the most recent convolution of a bill related to this contentious issue of oxygen and Medicare. However, H.R. 1077 was the First of Such Legislation Introduced, although it deals with reimbursement of the labor involved in the administration of the oxygen. Furthermore, H.R.3220 has only 1 co-sponsor compared to H.R.1077's twenty three willing legislators...which brings us back to the point:

    We aren't here to argue whether or not oxygen payments are a "worthy" issue. The point was to try and identify the mystery legislator.

    You have managed however, to highlight what is wrong with America and the political process. It is controlled by lobbyists such as yourself who work relentlessly to sway the opinion of the public and of lawmakers. Thank you for trolling your way onto this blog and defending your niche issue; all the while engaging in the questionable practice of labeling counter-arguments as "criminal".

  3. The two bills, HR 3220 and HR 1077, address completely different topics -- that's not a technicality. If you want to find someone in Congress who's concerned enough about oxygen policy to suggest reversing cuts, try Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) who introduced the Home Oxygen Patient Protection Act, H.R. 2373, which has about 72 cosponsors.

  4. The post has been duly amended to address your concerns. We won't concede the point that the two bills are no more than slightly different means to the same end.