Peggy S. Tresky, MA
WASHINGTON – Reps. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Bill Johnson (R-OH) introduced HR 2235, the Helping Ensure Life- and Limb-Saving Access to Podiatric Physicians (HELLPP) Act, yesterday. The bipartisan legislation will improve patient access to podiatrists in Medicaid and improve care for patients with diabetes who need therapeutic shoes via Medicare. After the passage of the VA Provider Equity Act in the 115th Congress resolved podiatrist-access issues in the Veterans Health Administration, APMA is hopeful Congress will take long overdue action to address these issues for Medicaid patients.
“APMA commends Representatives Diana DeGette and Bill Johnson for their steadfast support of the HELLPP Act. We firmly believe all patients should have access to the best trained and educated foot and ankle physicians and surgeons available, and that means podiatrists,” said APMA Executive Director and CEO James R. Christina, DPM. “This common-sense legislation will resolve multiple issues affecting the quality and efficiency of foot and ankle care.”
The HELLPP Act would recognize podiatrists as physicians under Medicaid. For decades, Medicare has defined doctors of podiatric medicine as “physicians,” but this is not the case in Medicaid. The bill would bring Medicaid in line with Medicare (and a majority of U.S. health-care delivery systems) and ensure that Medicaid patients have access to a range of options presented by the physicians and surgeons who are best trained for the foot and ankle care they seek.
“Essential foot and ankle care shouldn’t be considered a luxury,” Rep. Diana DeGette said. “Financially strapped people who rely on Medicaid, including children and the disabled, should be able to see the same specialists currently available to patients under Medicare. I’m proud to once again partner with Congressman Johnson on legislation to ensure all patients can access the care they need.”
“The bipartisan HELLPP Act would not only enhance patient access by recognizing DPMs as physicians under Medicaid, but importantly, it would also strengthen the program to save the federal government money,” said Rep. Bill Johnson. “During the last session of Congress, a similar bill garnered the support of almost 100 members from all across the political spectrum, demonstrating the broad support this legislation has. I am hopeful that by working with Congresswoman DeGette and other members of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, we can advance this legislation across the finish line and see it signed into law.”
The bill would clarify and improve the coordination of care in Medicare’s Therapeutic Shoe Program for patients with diabetes. The current processes and Medicare contractor requirements are unnecessarily burdensome and frequently bogged down, leading to frustration on the part of the certifying physician, prescribing doctor, supplier, and patient. The clarifications in the legislation would remove confusion and regulatory inconsistencies in the provision of this medically necessary benefit.
The bill would strengthen Medicaid program integrity by closing a loophole that allows tax-delinquent Medicaid providers to still receive full Medicaid reimbursements. This provision would save the Medicaid system money and more than offset any additional federal budget costs associated with the recognition of podiatrists as physicians under Medicaid. Such a mechanism already exists in Medicare, so this could save billions of dollars for the public health-care system.
APMA implores Congress to act quickly and decisively to resolve these glaring inconsistencies in our public health-care systems and ensure unrestrained access to quality foot and ankle care for all patients.
The American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA) is the nation's leading professional organization for today’s podiatrists. Doctors of Podiatric Medicine (DPMs) are qualified by their education, training, and experience to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the foot, ankle, and structures of the leg. APMA has 53 state component locations across the United States and its territories, with a membership of more than 12,500 podiatrists. All practicing APMA members are licensed by the state in which they practice podiatric medicine. For more information, visit www.apma.org.