Lymphedema advocates apply consistent pressure

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One of the most supported healthcare-related bills currently pending in Congress, this may be the year H.R. 930 crosses the finish line, lymphedema advocates say.

“We are looking at any possible vehicles to get this attached to,” said Judy Woodward, chairwoman of awareness for the Lymphedema Advocacy Group. “There are people championing this and trying to find ways to make that happen.”

The Lymphedema Treatment Act would amend Medicare statute to pay for compression garments, bandages and supplies to reduce lymphedema-related swelling and prevent recurrence. Currently, Medicare only pays for pneumatic compression pumps, and therapy provided by physical and occupational therapists.

Introduced in both the House of Representatives and the Senate in early 2017, the bill has 312 and 53 cosponsors, respectively, a number Woodward expects to see increase even more this week. Lymphedema Advocacy Group is holding its annual Lymphedema Lobby Days March 4–6, bringing 77 advocates from 30 states to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

“We need public pressure to keep attention on this,” said Woodward.

Although the bill has strong support, one of the concerns lawmakers have raised is its potential cost. Woodward points to a study, published in the Health Economics Review in 2016, that looks at compression coverage in the state of Virginia, which requires insurers, including Medicaid, to pay for the therapy. Among its findings: hospital days decreased by more than 50%; medical provider visits decreased by more than 40%; and there was virtually no change in the number of claims submitted.

“It’s a good predictor of what would happen (with Medicare), and that helps make our case when we talk to Congress,” said Woodward. “They find out the cost of compression garments is so much less than the cost of the complications.”

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