Amputees Take Their Message to the Street!

Protest PictureLast Wednesday, I experienced one of my proudest moments as an employee of AOPA and a member of the O&P community. I witnessed the full power of the amputee community as they stood up and proclaimed enough is enough and demanded recognition as folks who, despite their missing limbs, must be treated fairly by the government and the Medicare program.

Wednesday morning began with the scheduled public meeting to provide input on the draft Local Coverage Determination (LCD) and Policy Article governing Medicare coverage of lower limb prostheses that was published simultaneously by the four DME MACs on July 16, 2015.  As those of you that are familiar with the draft LCD and Policy Article are aware, the proposed policy would severely limit access to clinically appropriate and medically necessary lower limb prostheses for Medicare beneficiaries.  I was honored to sit in the room with more than 400 people and 80 speakers who felt the need to express their concern over the potential ramifications of the draft policy on Medicare beneficiaries and amputees covered by private insurance.  While the draft policy is a Medicare only policy, many private insurers adopt Medicare policy as their own, greatly expanding the universe of amputees potentially affected by the proposed policy changes.  Speaker after speaker took the podium to discuss their very personal stories and express their grave concern regarding how the proposed policy may restrict their access to quality prosthetic care.  To say these stories were emotionally moving is an understatement.  The bravery and willingness to share very personal issues in order to influence the direction of the proposed policy was simply awe inspiring.

After the public meeting, more than 150 individuals boarded buses for a trip to Washington, DC to participate in a rally in front of the Department of Health and Human Services building.  Amputees and non-amputees joined together and made sure their voices were heard for almost 3 hours as they marched, rallied, gave speeches, and literally stood on a soap box to deliver the message to CMS that artificial limbs are not a luxury.  Toward the end of the rally, representatives from AOPA, the O&P Alliance, and the Amputee Coalition met with CMS Acting Administrator Andrew Slavitt as well as other high ranking CMS and DHHS officials to reiterate the concerns of the O&P community regarding the potential impact of the draft LCD and Policy Article.  Reports from this meeting indicate that it was extremely positive and that CMS will be discussing the draft LCD and Policy Article further with its DME MAC contractors.

As the rally ended and the folks that had dedicated their personal time and money to participate in the days events headed home, I took a moment to reflect on the day.  Never in my twenty years in the O&P industry have I seen such a coordinated effort of the amputee community, the O&P community, and the groups that represent them, to make sure their voices were heard.  I can truly say that on Wednesday, August 26, 2015, I have never been prouder to work for and be part of the O&P community.

AOPA’s Take.  Where You Go….When You Need to Know!