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More Choices For Patients, Respiratory Therapists Under Crapo-Lincoln Legislation

Bill would revise Part B Medicare law

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo teamed with Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) to introduce legislation that gives respiratory patients and therapists more choices for effective treatment. The Medicare Respiratory Therapy Initiative Act of 2008 (S. 2704) revises current Medicare law to permit Registered Respiratory Therapists (RRTs), who have earned a bachelor's degree, to provide certain services (smoking cessation, asthma management, medication education and inhaler training) under the Part B Medicare law to asthma and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) patients under the general supervision of a physician. This means that the physician must be available to the Respiratory Therapist by phone during the provision of care but does not have to be physically in his or her office, as presently required.

"This legislation paves the way for greater access to quality respiratory therapy services for pulmonary patients," noted Crapo, Co-Chair of the Congressional COPD Caucus. "This access will be very beneficial to the people of Idaho, many of whom live in rural areas, to get the proper health care they need with the expenses being covered by Medicare."

"Our legislation will help improve access to much-needed lung health services for Medicare beneficiaries in the care setting that is right for them," Lincoln said, who also Co-Chairs the COPD Caucus. "It's a targeted legislative fix that will help many Americans receive the services they need from qualified respiratory therapists."

A new study by the American College of Chest Physicians determines that one-third of patients with asthma or COPD use their inhalers incorrectly. Additionally, experts on a government asthma guidelines panel recommend training by health professionals to improve the cost-effectiveness and clinical benefits to patients. Greater access to respiratory therapists will provide significant efforts to rectify this problem.

"On behalf of all the respiratory therapists, I thank Senator Crapo for his vision to recognize the importance of creating better access to respiratory therapy services for Idaho Medicare patients," said Brandi Johnson, an Idaho Respiratory Therapist. "The Medicare Respiratory Therapy Initiative, when passed by Congress, will help not only patients with lung disease but assist patients in rural areas such as Idaho to access the services of the professional respiratory therapist employed by physicians."

"This bill could literally open the door for many patients who haven't been able to get the care they deserve," said Toni Rodriguez, President of the American Association for Respiratory Care. "With this bill, they would have access to the services of a respiratory therapist in all of the places they might seek care-doctor's office, outpatient clinic, even their own home. And the expense will be covered by Medicare. This is a significant bill."

S. 2704 has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance. The House version of the bill, H.R. 3968, was introduced last October.