Lymphedema Treatment Act on Hold


The Lymphedema Treatment Act, a bill to establish coverage for lymphedema sufferers, was put on hold for the House of Representative’s holiday recess. Heather Ferguson, the founder of the Lymphedema Treatment Act Organization stated that the bill will be reintroduced sometime after Congress returns on January 6, 2014. Last week, in a previous article in the Guardian Liberty Voice, December 11, 2013, highlights of the grassroots organization were examined.

A correction to the original article:  Medicare allows more than one visit per patient, and they have a standard lifetime allowance for therapy that must be conducted by a certified lymphedema specialist.

The specific goals of the bill are –

  • to provide diagnosis and treatment of individuals with and at risk for lymphedema according to current medical treatment standards;
  • to provide for lymphedema patient education as regards self-treatment, and to have treatment continued from the clinic to the home;
  • to encourage patient self-treatment plan adherence by allowing for the necessary medical supplies for use at home;
  • to reduce total healthcare costs through avoidance of periodic infections, pain and disabilities resulting from lymphedema.

For those who suffer from lymphedema, it is a matter of course to use daily compression bandages.  The quality and comfort of these compression garments has improved considerably. Today, lymphedema specialists are able to fit patients with custom sleeves for both arms and legs. Wearing these garments every day means some amount of rubbing and can result in sensitive skin areas. The custom sleeves have reinforcement padding to protect these areas from friction burns and callouses.

Cancer treatment often results in lymphedema, due to the removal of lymph nodes by surgery, and then the resulting damage that radiation does to the lymphatic system after six to ten weeks of  treatments. Cancer patients find that even one year after treatment, lymphedema can become the next challenge in a journey already fraught with difficult surgeries and toxic treatments. During chemotherapy and radiation, oncologists rarely want to visit the subject of lymphedema, since it can be the last thing on their minds, and to burden the patient with more possibilities seems almost cruel.

Studies have shown from 10 percent to 90 percent of women after breast cancer surgery and radiation develop lymphedema.  The results of these studies is so different, probably because each study is concentrating on different factors, such as age or when most of the women in a particular study have lymph nodes removed.

Lymphedema patients have a considerable interest in having the Lymphedema Treatment Act introduced and accepted by the House of Representatives and then for the bill to go through Congress and be passed. A hold on the reintroduction of the bill is hopefully just one more step before the Lymphedema Treatment Act is successfully voted on.

As Ferguson can attest, her son Dylan has had many roadblocks with his primary condition of lymphedema. However, since North Carolina recognizes the tenets of the Lymphedema Treatment Act, the Ferguson family has coverage for his compression bandages and garments. It is hoped that all US citizens will receive the same type of coverage once the Lymphedema Treatment Act is no longer on hold, and passed in both houses of Congress.

By Lisa M Pickering

Related: Lymphedema Treatment Act Is on the Line

Interview with:  Heather Ferguson

Breast Cancer Organization

Lymphedema Treatment Act Organization

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