Alabama, retiree Ken K. keeps busy as a minister for his local community church. For the past 6 years, Ken and his wife have benefited from sleep apnea treatment, each using a CPAP at night to help manage their sleep disorders and prevent low blood oxygen levels, hypertension, heart disease, and other serious problems that can occur if left untreated.
Ken recently contacted People for Quality Care after learning about some concerning Medicare changes that affect his community’s ability to access vital equipment like CPAPs, home oxygen therapy, and other medical products and services they need.
Ken’s Story: Fearful elderly won’t be able to afford oxygen anymore with cuts
In June, Ken got a letter from the local home medical equipment company that he and his wife have been using for years. Due to an extreme reduction in Medicare funding for covered items like Ken’s CPAP, the company was being forced to change its business operations and start charging its customers up front for the cost of the equipment.
Ken’s company explained that since Medicare reimbursement dropped by 59% effective July 1, the company can no longer “accept assignment” to consider Medicare reimbursement payment in full. As result of Medicare’s inadequate funding, patients like Ken are now having to shoulder the burden of the costs of the equipment, supplies, and services above and beyond what Medicare will pay the company to provide them. Ken and his wife must now pay the full costs out of pocket and wait for Medicare to send them partial reimbursement.
“My fear is that an elderly person like my mother, who suffered from COPD and required oxygen therapy, won’t be able to afford to get her oxygen anymore,” says Ken. As he reflects on the members of his congregation, he tells People for Quality Care that his elderly and disabled members are already in a financially and medically fragile state. With this new policy change, Ken knows that many of them will be in a position where they have to choose between their food, health care, and rent.
“For many in our community who have Medicare, medical supplies and equipment are now simply out of reach.”
Ken expressed frustration at the apparent indifference of the government to the needs of the elderly. Impassioned with a great desire to serve the least of these, he is reaching out to his elected officials and encouraging others to do the same. For many Medicare beneficiaries, this isn’t a matter of inconvenience but a true restriction of access for life-sustaining and life-enhancing equipment. Ken sees first-hand how devastating the recent Medicare changes are having in his community and urges Congress to take immediate action to preserve and stabilize access and proper funding for essential medical equipment.
“It’s unconscionable that we would do this to our elderly,” laments Ken. “These are the people that were instrumental in building this country. They deserve better treatment.”
To join Ken in advocating for preserved access to medical equipment, call or send a letter to your legislator asking for immediate legislative relief when Congress reconvenes in January. about this important issue.