Improving Patient Quality of Life with the Lymphedema Treatment Act
by Janet Wolfson, PT, CLWT, CWS, CLT-LANA
As the 116th Congress ruffles its feathers and dusts out the corners, it's another chance for the Lymphedema Treatment Act (LTA) to become law. The Senate bill was given bill number S 518, whereas the House bill is pending. In the previous Congress, the bill had a super majority support in both Senate and House. One can only speculate what else might have consumed their time.
The Lymphedema Treatment Act
The LTA would improve care for people with lymphedema of any origin by mandating that Medicare provide current comprehensive treatment and lymphedema compression supplies. It would "reduce the total cost of treatment by reducing incidence of complications, co-morbidities and disabilities resulting from this medical condition." Currently, Medicare covers treatment, but compression supplies are covered only after time-consuming and perhaps multiple appeals. (Coverage has been obtained in some areas under the orthotics DME category.) Other sources of insurance tend to follow the lead of Medicare. The impact on the quality of life for those burdened with lymphedema is tremendous. Avoiding episodes of infection or sepsis requiring hospitalization, improving their self-care ability, increasing their ability to work, and enhancing their self-image are all huge secondary gains that healthy people take for granted.
Members of the Senate have begun to sign on, and you can check whether one of your senators is a cosponsor by going to lymphedematreatmentact.org. The House bill is pending reintroduction. New members of Congress will need more information, which you can conveniently glean from the site. Pamphlets and digital media are available for those inclined to use these resources. Follow the links, contact your senators, ask for their aide who coordinates health care issues. We need both chambers to get this into law, so be a frequent flyer to the site, and follow up with your representative.
The Importance of Early Lymphedema Diagnosis and Treatment
Lymphedema is so important to treat, but it is also essential to get diagnosed or educated in prevention if you fall into an at-risk category. Right now, we are rehabbing a patient with stage 3 lymphedema in our inpatient rehab facility. The lymphedema was either never treated or diagnosed too late. His quality of life and self-care ability are nearly irreparably harmed because of this. His comorbid congestive heart failure makes treating the lymphedema to improve his mobility nearly impossible. Will he be able to go home? If only his lymphedema had been treated in his younger years. A new colleague in the Florida arm of the LTA Advocacy Team was diagnosed immediately but was refused treatment because her cancer was the main concern right then (at a well-known cancer hospital!). Now she has stage 3 lymphedema, is trying to pay for a thousand-dollar compression garment, and is seeking surgical solutions. The clients with newly occurring lymphedema are thrilled to have a treatment because the response to compression and manual lymphatic drainage is fast. If only...
On March 28, the LTA was reintroduced to the House by Lead Sponsor, Representative Jan Shakowsky (IL-9), and Co-leads Buddy Carter (GA-1), Earl Blumenauer (OR-3), and Mike Kelly (PA-16). 92 additional House members joined as Original Cosponsors, meaning that they were listed as cosponsors at the time of introduction. Any bill reaching 290 cosponsors is guaranteed a hearing.
Go to lymphedematreatmentact.org now.
About the Author
Janet Wolfson is a wound care and lymphedema educator with ILWTI, and Lymphedema and Wound Care Coordinator at Health South of Ocala with over 30 years of field experience.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.