Medical providers don’t have to be on call to advocate for their patients. Such is the case with Becky Hecox, PT, CDT-LANA, WCC, of CMC’s Outpatient Rehabilitation. As a physical therapist, Becky works with patients who have lymphedema and runs CMC’s quarterly Lymphedema Support Group. This condition, often a side effect of cancer, is the buildup of lymphatic fluid that can cause or pain, difficulty moving, and other symptoms.
Earlier this month, Becky met with a policy assistant for Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) on the Lymphedema Treatment Act, a federal bill to extend insurance coverage to include the doctor prescribed, medically necessary compression supplies that are a major part of successful lymphedema management and treatment.
Compression garments and supplies are part of the gold standard of treatment for lymphedema, says Hecox. “They’re needed to keep fluid out of the limb,” she explains, “and can help avoid more costly complications of lymphedema like emergency room visits, in-hospital treatment, and lost time from work.”
Compression garments and other supplies cost anywhere from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars, compared to the thousands of dollars it costs to treat complications from the condition. In New Hampshire, the bill would affect about 1,500 people who have lymphedema.
“35 dollars for bandages, or 75 dollars for compression socks may not sound like a lot of money, but for someone on Medicare or living on social security, that can amount to a grocery bill, a medication, or a taxi ride for a doctor’s appointment,” says Hecox.
Hecox notes that Medicare covers a limited number of physical therapy appointments over the course of a year. That’s another cost that could be avoided with proper management. And, she says, “without the consistent use of garments, lymphedema takes a lot longer to treat – months instead of weeks. In addition to experiencing discomfort and pain from swelling, the buildup of lymphatic fluid also makes a patient more susceptible to infection.”
The Lymphedema Treatment Act was first introduced to Congress in 2010 by then- Congressman Larry Kissell (D-NC) and was inspired by Heather Furgeson, a North Carolina woman whose son was diagnosed with lymphedema at seven months old. More information is online at www.lymphedematreatmentact.org
For more information on the treatment of lymphedema or CMC’s lymphedema support group, contact Becky Hecox, PT 603-641-6700