This year, January doesn’t just usher in a New Year, it ushers in a new administration in Washington. And maybe a new world. The one thing that seems certain right now is uncertainty, as the new President’s plans begin to be revealed.
What is it all likely to mean for amputees? There’s not a great deal of clarity around the outlook for those with limb loss, but there are some issues that bear watching in the months ahead that will likely have some impact on amputees.
The largest of these is undoubtedly what will happen with the Affordable Care Act and what the ripple effect will be. Among the many possible side effects of a total repeal of the ACA is that the Veteran’s Administration will end up having to shoulder a greater share of patient care -- as many as 3 million vets currently receive their care somewhere other than the VA, but if other options evaporate, they may be forced to turn to the VA for care. The VA is already an overtaxed system, so an influx of 3 million new patients could have serious implications, especially if a planned hiring freeze at the agency takes effect (which appears to be a matter of debate at the moment -- more uncertainty). And of course, many amputees are veterans.
Another issue to pay close attention to is what will happen with Medicare and Medicaid. According to the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics, if Congress addresses major tax reform in 2017 as a “budget neutral” effort, they will likely be looking to cut spending from entitlement programs to keep the budget in balance. If proposed Medicaid block grants go through, it will place more authority with the states to administer Medicaid spending. And it remains to be seen if the unfinalized Medicare rule that touched off a small firestorm last year will be changed. (One of the benefits of our documentation clinics is that we can help patients sort through these issues as they occur.)
Finally, what will happen with the proposed Senate Bill 829 under the new Congress? If passed, the bill would offer protections to prosthetics and orthotics patients by distinguishing between orthotics/prosthetics and durable medical equipment and would give greater authority to prosthetist/orthotist’s clinical notes to determine what constitutes “medical necessity” for prostheses.
These are just some of the issues we’re keeping a close eye on as the new year gets underway. Be assured, if we see or hear anything that will impact the quality of life of amputees, we will let you know! Follow us on Facebook or Twitter to make sure you’re up to date on the latest. And your representatives need to hear from you, so don’t hesitate to contact Senators Susan Collins or Angus King.