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TAKE ACTION: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Plans to Cut Reimbursement Rates for Pulmonary Rehab in 2017

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The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced plans to cut pulmonary rehabilitation reimbursements rates in 2017. The COPD Foundation, along with the greater COPD community and partners in the U.S. COPD Coalition, are joining together to prevent this from happening. Pulmonary rehabilitation is vital for individuals living with COPD- and we urge everyone in the community to take action today to breathe better tomorrow. You can send a comment to CMS by clicking here now. Below find a message from the chairman of the U.S. COPD Coalition, Sam Giordano, MBA, RRT:

According to the dictionary, the definition of a coalition is, "an alliance for combined action." Between now and the year's end, the U.S. COPD Coalition (USCC) has been given a chance to prove the definition accurate.

This is a call to action is to all members of USCC, regardless of whether you are COPD patients, loved ones, healthcare professionals, or friends. As we have known for some time, pulmonary Rehabilitation works and the scientific evidence proves it.

It is not news that too many COPD patients struggle to gain access to the few programs currently available. Due to an already too low reimbursement, there simply are not enough programs to meet the demand from our community. Many programs struggle to remain in operation because of the low reimbursement rates from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). Additionally, the low rate discourages development of new programs in areas where access is non-existent.

The U.S. COPD Coalition, and virtually all members of the COPD community, including: patients, doctors, respiratory therapists, physical therapists, nurses, and others, have been pushing for CMS to increase rates. We thought we were making progress, but last week we were shocked to learn that CMS reversed the increase they had proposed in July. Now they are proposing to lower rates even further. This change means we now risk losing existing programs, and never seeing those that should be added in the future.

Fortunately the payment rates are not final, yet. We have until December 31st, 2016 to do something about this proposed change. We must act now by submitting comment regarding the interim final rule's impact. Information about how to submit your comments follow this piece.

You must submit your comments to CMS before December 31st or your voice will not be heard.

Just tell your stories.

If you are a patient, family member, or friend; describe the real life benefit you have received from pulmonary rehabilitation programs. Did it have impact on your physical and emotional quality of life, decrease the amount of hospitalizations you have experienced, increase your physical stamina, help you achieve your personal goals, etc.? These are just examples, and if you have other benefits to describe, do so. In short, just tell your own story; CMS needs to hear from you more than any other group.

If you are a healthcare professional: share your observations regarding the benefit of pulmonary rehabilitation to your patients, and any results from studies, or other programs that involve your pulmonary rehab. Place special emphasis on observed decreases in hospital admissions, E.D. visits, care plan compliance, and respiratory quality of life. Also describe other improvements in clinical outcomes. Moreover, describe the impact of a rate decrease on existing programs, and development of new programs, especially in rural, inner city or other medically under-served areas.

This is another chance for us to make a difference, and help CMS recognize that pulmonary rehabilitation will save money, but more importantly that it provides COPD patients with access to the only scientifically proven, non-pharmacological clinical intervention. While we hope to meet with CMS before the year's end, your comments can make a difference in their decision to adopt an adequate rate.

Now, here's how to submit your comment.

  • View the final rule document here. Please note that the pulmonary rehabilitation related content starts on page 354.
  • Submit your comments electronically here.
  • OR
  • Submit your comments by mail using the instructions provided by CMS on page 3 of the final rule document. Electronic comments are preferred.
  • Share your comments with us by emailing info@uscopdcoalition.org and sharing on the USCC Facebook page.

Take Action Today to Breathe Better Tomorrow.

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