Stakeholders press women’s health issues

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Friday, July 26, 2019

WASHINGTON – Industry stakeholders behind bills seeking Medicare coverage for custom breast forms and compression garments are gearing up for a pivotal August recess.

Ahead of the recess, the Lymphedema Advocacy Group has been meeting almost monthly with lawmakers and their staff on Capitol Hill to drum up support for H.R. 1948 and S. 515, bills that would require Medicare to pay for compression garments, bandages and supplies to reduce lymphedema-related swelling and prevent recurrence.

“With this being the longest recess, the big push is to try and get in-district meetings or attend town halls,” said Heather Ferguson, founder and executive director of the Lymphedema Advocacy Group. “On an ongoing basis, we are encouraging people to write and call lawmakers.”

H.R. 1948 and S. 515 have 302 and 61 co-sponsors, respectively, since being introduced earlier this year.

Grassroots efforts will also play a central role in growing support for the Breast Cancer Patient Equity Act, H.R. 1370 and S. 562, which would expand Medicare coverage to include custom breast prostheses for women recovering from mastectomy surgery. Introduced in February, the bills have 28 and four co-sponsors, respectively.

Essentially Women, a division of VGM, is launching a toolkit for $30 that contains counter cards, posters and handouts to help its members get the word out.

“What we want more than anything is to encourage patients and everyday people to contact their legislators,” says Nikki Jensen, vice president.

Supporters of both bills are optimistic about their chances for inclusion in larger bills to address Medicare extenders, drug pricing and surprise billing.

“Whatever may be coming, we’ll keep an ear out,” said Jensen. “It’s encouraging hearing how staffers are trying to figure out what other bills they may have to slide it into.”