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Lymphedema advocates leverage personal connections

Lymphedema advocates leverage personal connections �During these meetings, the light goes on,� Woodward says

WASHINGTON - With recently reintroduced legislation in hand, more than 70 lymphedema advocates will visit Capitol Hill this week to build on previous support.

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.

“We're looking forward to keeping this on their radar,” said Judy Woodward, chairwoman of awareness for the Lymphedema Advocacy Group, a volunteer organization that was founded specifically to help get the bill passed. “More and more, we are realizing that many people do have a personal connection to lymphedema and, during these meetings, the light goes on.”

The biggest concern for lawmakers about the bill is cost, says Woodward, but treating lymphedema appropriately prevents the need for more costly care—like hospitalizations—down the road.

A positive sign: The bill, which was reintroduced in the House of Representatives on Feb. 10 and in the Senate on March 2, has quickly garnered 70 and 16 co-sponsors, respectively. Such an early introduction with a large number of co-sponsors right out of the gate bodes well, says Woodward.

“Obviously, there's a lot going on in Washington, D.C., but we are encouraged that, despite all of the focus on so many big issues, the number of supporters we have already speaks a lot,” she said.

Although the bill could get passed on its own, it's more likely to get attached to a larger vehicle, like a Medicare bill that is expected later in the year, says Woodward.

“We've been told by our lead sponsors that all options are on the table,” she said.


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