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Crapo, Lincoln Win Airline Oxygen Change

Air passengers needing oxygen can now carry onboard containers

Washington, DC - Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) today scored a victory for airline passengers who are reliant on portable oxygen when traveling. A federal rule change requires airlines to allow all passengers needing portable oxygen access to aircraft. Prior to the new ruling, portable oxygen containers were designated as a permissible carry-on item, but airlines were still permitted to deny passengers carrying these containers. The new announcement from the U.S. Department of Transportation now clears the way for all travelers who need to do so to use portable oxygen.

Crapo and Lincoln, along with Representatives John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Cliff Stearns (R-Florida), founded the Congressional COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) Caucus to increase congressional awareness and education opportunities regarding COPD. The group seeks improved legislation and policy decisions from members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives that could promote policies improving the lives of COPD patients and reduce the costs to society for treating COPD. More than 13 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with some form of the lung ailment.

The Congressional COPD Caucus had earlier won approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to include smoking cessation counseling and products to its list of covered products and services. Lincoln and Crapo have introduced legislation to increase rehabilitation programs available to COPD patients under Medicare, improving the utilization of respiratory therapists.

"People with disabilities, such as those suffering emphysema or chronic bronchitis should not be denied the right to travel on an airplane because of outdated rules," Crapo said. "This rule change will greatly benefit those who have been waiting patiently for years for the right to visit family and friends and travel by air. Previous to this date, most could not legally fly on board an airplane; in effect, they were discriminated against based on their disabilities."

"The Department of Transportation rule is big win for patients who use supplemental oxygen," said David H. Ingbar, M.D, President of the American Thoracic Society. "As a result of this rule, patients who need supplemental oxygen and other respiratory assistive devices during air travel will now be in control of their medical needs. This rule would not have been possible without the leadership of Senator Crapo and the members of the Congressional COPD Caucus."

Jon Tiger, President of the National Home Oxygen Patients Association, and Peter Gay, M.D., President of the National Association for Medical Direction of Respiratory Care released a joint statement: "This decision by the Department of Transportation has been worth the wait. It moves the one million Americans who require supplementary oxygen during flight from second class status to genuine first class status as members of the flying public who can fly with relative ease. No longer are arbitrary barriers in place for these passengers, and they can now assume responsibility for their own travel. This decision would not have happened without the strong Congressional leadership of Senator Mike Crapo and the Congressional COPD Caucus that has also championed this cause. On behalf of oxygen users and the pulmonary physicians who manage their care, we are especially grateful."