Thursday, November 15, 2007

Lymphedema - Medicare - What You Can Do

Lymphedema - Medicare - What You Can Do
I'd like to start everyone off with the following three steps. Take on as much as you all can but don't over-do. I know we all have limited time and energy. The first thing to do is to get your lymphedema under control, then we can start educating and lobbying.

1. If you have recently been denied compression bandages, garments or devices, and you are still within the time period for an appeal, let's get the appeal going. I'll supply the proper forms and help you fill them out. If you have paid for compression materials and have not been formally denied, I'll send you a Medicare claim form. Otherwise I'll help you write a claim letter.

2. I must also know whether you wish to work towards national Medicare legislation or State legislation for the diagnosis and treatment of lymphedema.

Tell me your 9-digit ZIP code and I'll tell you the name and contact info for your legislators with suggestions as to the best ones to contact.

3. When you have some spare time, call your legislators to urge them to support (or introduce) legislation which affects your ability to access quality lymphedema care. Some current bills are as follows:

Stopgap legislation has been introduced in both the Senate and House (S. 543 Nelson/H.R. 1459 Tanner) that would freeze implementation of 75% Rule and prevent additional access problems for individuals requiring lymphedema treatment.

The House recently passed the Children's Health and Medicare Protection (“CHAMP”) Act of 2007, which includes a freeze in the implementation of the 75% Rule at the 60% threshold indefinitely.

The legislation would also allow patients' co-morbidities to continue to be considered for purposes of meeting the 75% Rule quota.

In March 2005 CMS changed their interpretation of the Social Security Act to limit coverage of manual lymph drainage to physical and occupational therapists, thereby eliminating coverage of treatment by specially-qualified nurses, physicians, osteopaths, chiropractors and massage therapists.

This effectively reduced the numberof available trained therapists by some 30 percent. A number of lymphedema treatment clinics around the country have already been forced to close as a result of this policy change. H.R. 1846 Towns attempts to partially rectify this ill-advised policy by restoring physician authority in selecting qualified medical personnel to perform “incident to” services.

Also in March 2006 lymphedema was exempted automatically from therapy caps that were re-imposed on January 1, 2006. But in January 2007 exemption was made dependent on existence of a co-condition. This constitutes another roadblock to access to physician-prescribed treatment for lymphedema patients.

S. 450 Ensign/H.R. 748 Becerra would permanently eliminate therapy caps.

Thanks for helping.

BobRobert Weiss, M.S.Lymphedema Treatment Advocate