Bipartisan Legislation Introduced to Protect Access to Medical Ventilators

U.S. Representatives Morgan Griffith (R-VA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), John Larson (D-CT), and Darren Soto (D-FL) have introduced the Safeguarding Medicare Access to Respiratory Therapy (SMART) Act of 2019. This legislation will delay the inclusion of medical ventilators from competitive acquisition programs under Medicare for a period of five years.

“Medical ventilators are life-sustaining devices. Patients depending on them can often remain in their homes, but only if providers are able to travel to them. This becomes more difficult in rural or isolated areas, such as parts of Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District, and introducing competitive bidding would likely be an unsustainable burden to providers in these areas. The SMART Act would prevent such difficulties. I am pleased to stand with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle in support of our constituents who rely on ventilators,” said Representative Griffith.

“Non-invasive ventilators improve patient outcomes and allow patients to be at home surrounded by family,” said Representative Welch. “Recent decisions by CMS threaten to make it harder for patients in rural and underserved areas to access this critical equipment. This bill would make sure that all patients can benefit from this technology, no matter where they live.”

“This legislation is about making sure that bureaucratic changes don’t jeopardize the health of medically fragile patients who rely on ventilators, such as many living with ALS.  We want to be sure that these patients, who are already grappling with complex medical issues, don’t experience delays accessing care, as lapses could prove fatal. I will continue to fight to ensure all Medicare patients receive access to the life-saving care they need,” said Representative Bilirakis.

“This legislation is vital to ensuring patients, especially those with ALS, have access to ventilators and are able to maintain their quality of life. I’m proud to introduce this legislation with Congressman Griffith,” said Representative Larson.

“Ventilators are a lifeline for those unable to breathe on their own,” said Representative Soto. “The CMS proposal fails to meet the needs of vulnerable patients while compromising cost and quality of care. I’m proud to support the bipartisan SMART Act of 2019 that delays these proposed changes and guarantees another five years of prolonged health.”

Including ventilators in a competitive bidding process for Medicare would likely place certain users of the equipment and providers at a disadvantage. Patients relying on ventilators often need intensive clinical support. Providers serving patients in rural, isolated, or otherwise difficult to serve areas would be likely be unable to offer the most competitive bid to the Centers for Medicare or Medicaid Services (CMS). Patients in those areas would then be unable to receive care in their homes, requiring them to travel to medical establishments for care. This would diminish their quality of life without saving taxpayer dollars.

CMS has previously delayed including ventilators to competitive bidding. The SMART Act would establish in law a delay for five years.

The SMART Act has been endorsed by 24 organizations consisting of patient advocates, clinicians, and health care providers. You can view their letter of support here.