Senators reintroduce bill to ‘HELLPP’ patients access podiatrist services, therapeutic shoesFrom Health Law Daily, March 3, 2015
By Patricia K. Ruiz, J.D.
Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) have re-introduced the Helping Ensure Life- and Limb-Saving Access to Podiatric Physicians (HELLPP) Act, which would improve access to podiatrists by recognizing them as physicians under Medicaid and improve care for Medicare beneficiaries who require therapeutic shoes because of diabetes. A previous version of the legislation died in Congress.
“Increasing access to specialized doctors, including podiatrists, for individuals on Medicaid and providing the kinds of health accessories, like therapeutic shoes, for Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes are both prime examples of ways we can improve health care for patients with specific needs, while realizing saving through prevention,” Schumer said. “Enhancing this kind of access for unique health requirements is often overlooked and it should not be. This bill will help us address this void so that we can bring these beneficiaries the quality foot and therapeutic health care they need as soon as possible.”
Recognition of podiatrists. The change recognizing podiatrists as physicians under Medicaid would help bring the program in line with the majority of the U.S. health care delivery system, including Medicare, which has traditionally recognized podiatrists as such. To offset the costs of the change, the bill would also close a loophole in the Medicaid program that allows Medicaid providers who are behind on taxes to receive full reimbursements. Previously, the American Podiatric Medical Association urged the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to look closer at the budgetary impact of the HELLPP Act to consider whether closing the tax loophole would provide sufficient funding for the bill.
Therapeutic Shoe Program. Additionally, the legislation would improve the coordination of care under Medicare’s Therapeutic Shoe Program for diabetes patients by removing confusing and regulatory inconsistencies for the provision of therapeutic shoes. The changes were warranted, as “[t]he current processes and Medicare contractor requirements for determining eligibility for Medicare’s Therapeutic Shoe Program for patients with diabetes, and for furnishing this medically necessary benefit, are unnecessarily burdensome and frequently bogged down, leading to frustration on the part of the certifying physician, prescribing doctor, and supplier.”