Photo by Julie F. Hanson, for the Lymphedema Treatment Act.
Photo by Julie F. Hanson, for the Lymphedema Treatment Act.

Back in April, I joined over seventy patients and advocates for the Lymphedema Lobby Days, where we met with members of Congress to ask them to cosponsor the Lymphedema Treatment Act.

It was an exhilarating experience, a huge collective effort whose ripples are still effecting change today: before we went to DC, there were 202 members of the House of Representatives and 14 members of Senate cosponsoring the respective bills; now, there are (drumroll, please)….. 233 House cosponsors and 18 Senate cosponsors!

It’s amazing to see these numbers continue to rise. Through the tireless work of the Lymphedema Advocacy Group, patient advocates, and politicians like Congressman Dave Reichert championing the bill, there has been a groundswell of support and action. It seems like every time I go online, I see more positive news about the LTA!

Just last month, the American Medical Association joined the long list of organizations supporting the Lymphedema Treatment Act by announcing their endorsement in a letter to Senator Maria Cantwell.

More recently, on June 8th, the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee conducted a hearing entitled “Legislation to Improve and Sustain the Medicare Program,” and the Lymphedema Treatment Act (HR1608) was one of the bills included in the discussion. During the meeting, Congressman Dave Reichert gave testimony in support of the Lymphedema Treatment Act:

So what happens next?

This is all great news, but what does it mean as we move forward? Per the Lymphedema Treatment Act’s Facebook page:

Now that the LTA has had a hearing, there are a number of possible avenues from here. The committee that held this hearing may choose to put together a package of Medicare-related bills, and the LTA might be included. Our bill sponsor also now has the option of trying to tack the LTA on to another larger piece of legislation that may or may not be Medicare-related. We’ve always known that a small bill like ours would never be brought to the House floor on its own, but having a hearing opens the door for us to be bundled with or tacked on to another larger piece of legislation. That is the next step in this process.

Despite all this encouraging news, we still have to keep pushing and making our voices heard in order to get this bill passed. Just because we’re getting closer doesn’t mean we’re quite there yet, but our community has proven to be one of action—let’s keep that going!

Here’s how you can help:

About the Lymphedema Treatment Act

The Lymphedema Treatment Act is a bill that will provide Medicare coverage of the doctor-prescribed compression supplies (like garments and bandages) that are so necessary for lymphedema treatment. Currently, Medicare doesn’t cover compression supplies because they don’t fit under any benefit category—a frustrating logistical loophole that creates a serious barrier to care for patients.

We all know how crucial compression is to lymphedema management, not to mention how long-term daily compression significantly cuts down on incidences of complications, progression of symptoms, and disabilities that so often result from untreated lymphedema. Access to compression garments leads to less incidences of infections and hospitalizations, which in turn cuts down on healthcare costs; in a 2011 study cited by The Lymphedema Treatment Act, patients that underwent compression therapy had hospital costs at 12 fold less per year than those without compression therapy.

Medicare often sets the standard for private insurers, so the passing of this bill would benefit more than just Medicare recipients in the long-term and help patients achieve a better quality of life. Compression therapy is to lymphedema as, say, an insulin shot is to a diabetic: absolutely necessary!

Photo by Julie F. Hanson, for the Lymphedema Treatment Act.
Photo by Julie F. Hanson, for the Lymphedema Treatment Act.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
-Margaret Mead