Wound payment policy getting a second look

Physical therapy group wins delay

Opponents of a decision by the Health Care Financing Administration (HCFA) in Baltimore to cease reimbursement for electrical stimulation for wound care have won a 60-day reprieve. 

The agency has agreed to delay enactment of the new policy, which was scheduled to take effect May 14, to give opponents time to build a case for continuing the payments. 

HCFA’s decision to stop the reimbursements was based on its interpretation of a report the agency commissioned, titled Electrical Stimulation for Treatment of Chronic Wounds: Part I & II. The recommendation to no longer cover electrical stimulation for wound care was made by HCFA’s Technical Advisory Committee.

Reprieve is welcomed

The delay was cheered by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) in Arlington, VA. "For more than 17 years, Medicare carriers and intermediaries have been reimbursing providers for electrical stimulation for the treatment of wounds," says Nancy Garland, director of governmental affairs for the association. 

"Physical therapists are considered to be an integral part of the wound care management team and have found that electrical stimulation does work in treating wounds," Garland says.

Gathering evidence

APTA representatives say numerous studies have shown that electrical stimulation is effective in treating wounds. In 1995, for example, the United States Agency for Health Care Policy and Research completed a study that recommended electrical stimulation for decubitus ulcers, stage III and IV pressure ulcers, and recalcitrant stage II ulcers. 

In the next two months, the APTA plans to collect and present to HCFA research that supports the effectiveness of electrical stimulation for wound care, as administered by physical therapists, says Jerry Connolly, PT, APTA senior vice president of the division of health policy.