Medical gases such as oxygen require a prescription for dispensation. Each firm is responsible for determining if the consignee — not the patient — is authorized to purchase the medical gas. Many individuals suffering from advanced Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) or certain other respiratory and cardiac conditions are unable to meet their bodies’ oxygen through normal breathing. Clinical studies have demonstrated that the introduction of supplemental oxygen assists many of these patients.
Medicare’s eligibility criteria for the home oxygen benefit are very specific and require all patients to have:
- An appropriate physician diagnosis such as COPD;
- Clinical tests evidencing reduced levels of oxygen in the blood; and
- A certificate of medical necessity signed by a physician and prescribing the volume of supplemental oxygen required by the patient in per minute dosages. In addition, the certificate must document whether the patient needs a portable and/or stationary unit.
Physicians may prescribe a specific type of oxygen system on the certificate of medical necessity, or they may allow the oxygen supplier to decide which system best meets a patient’s needs. Currently, there are three methods, or modalities, through which patients may obtain supplemental oxygen:
- Compressed gas is available in various tank sizes, ranging from large stationary cylinders to small portable cylinders.
- Oxygen concentrators are electric-powered machines about the size of a dehumidifier that extract oxygen directly from the patient’s environment.
- Liquid oxygen is available in large stationary reservoirs and portable units.