Two bills were introduced in Congress this month that address issues related to amputations.
Congressman G. K. Butterfield (D-NC) with Congressman Brett Guthrie (R-KY) introduced a bill to require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to study coverage for services related to the amputation of a limb.
The bill directs the GAO to identify barriers to care, gaps in assessments and device prescriptions, and performance measures for timely coverage. It will also compare coverage, prevention, and return-to-work rates from the Medicare program, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the commercial health insurance market to provide credible, actionable data for policymakers to make informed decisions that will improve the lives of amputees.
“Despite recent advances in science and medical treatment in the United States of America, the rate of amputations has increased by 50 percent over the past decade,” said Butterfield. “Diabetics alone undergo over 100,000 amputations each year, most of which occur in low-income and underserved communities. Numbers revealing significant racial disparities are especially alarming. The rate of Black patients with diabetes-related amputations is nearly twice that of whites. Among Medicare beneficiaries the lower-limb amputation rate of Blacks is nearly four times that of whites. And the rate of peripheral arterial disease in Blacks, which is a leading cause of limb loss, is nearly three times that of whites. It is imperative that the gaps and disparities in services rendered for amputees, including the possible prevention of loss of limbs, are studied and addressed in order to improve health equity and protect the quality of life for so many in need.”
“On behalf of the 2.1 million Americans living with limb loss and limb difference and the 28 million more at risk, we thank Representatives Butterfield and Guthrie for introduction of this legislation,” said Mary Richards, president and CEO of the Amputee Coalition. “The Triple A Study Act will identify the best care practices for people living with limb loss or limb difference so they can be replicated across health systems, which will improve health outcomes for our community.”
The second bill, the Amputation Reduction and Compassion (ARC) Act, introduced by Congressman Donald M. Payne Jr. (D-NJ), would allow Medicare or Medicaid beneficiaries who are at risk for PAD to use the program to pay for screening tests without cost-sharing requirements. PAD-related amputations can be prevented with early screening and diagnosis.
Payne also wrote a letter to House and Senate leadership asking them to prevent Medicare cuts to specialty physicians that could affect doctors who treat PAD patients.
“I took these actions to protect Americans who could lose a limb to a preventable disease,” Payne said. “PAD is treatable if we catch it early. Medicare and Medicaid treat our most vulnerable citizens. We need to allow these two critical programs to support medical professionals and patients and not cut critical funding that could cause Americans to lose their limbs.”