In a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, (D-CA) and Minority Leader John Boehner, (R-OH), the Council for Quality Respiratory Care (CQRC)—a coalition of the nation’s 11 leading home oxygen therapy providers and manufacturers—voiced strong opposition to cuts that would affect the use of home oxygen.
Specifically, CQRC opposes an 18-month cap on Medicare payments for home oxygen services included in the Children’s Health and Medicare Protection Act of 2007 (CHAMP), which will be voted on today. The letter to emphasized that of the 1 million Medicare beneficiaries receiving oxygen, 35% would be affected by the cuts.
Of particular irony, the letter noted, was that the House’s CHAMP Act proposes a smaller tobacco tax increase (39 cents as opposed to 45 cents) than the Senate’s SCHIP package, while cutting an important Medicare benefit that ensures care for beneficiaries, many of whom became chronically ill through the use of tobacco products.
Rep. Bob Etheridge, D-NC, said today he is undecided about how to vote on the broad healthcare package. "It seems every time something like this comes along, our farmers get put upon. They get picked on. Every state has added additional taxes," he said. Etheridge acknowledged that some families in his district qualify for health coverage under SCHIP, but he indicated his constituents care more about the tobacco tax. "You’ve got to represent the people you represent," he said.
Another North Carolina Democrat, Rep. G.K. Butterfield, said he will vote for the package and has already set up meetings in August with tobacco producers to explain his vote. "We’re backed into a corner," Butterfield said of the tobacco-tax-forSCHIP trade. "We cannot fail to provide insurance coverage for poor children in America. I’m disappointed that the burden of that falls on folks that smoke tobacco and tobacco producers."
Majority Whip James E. Clyburn admitted that he knew a lot of House Democrats prefer the 39-cent tax increase but would vote for 45 cents anyway. Clyburn added he would whip for the 45-cent increase.