By Sterling Alam

The essence of what OAB and UOA are about is individuals with ostomies and continent procedures helping others who have had the same or similar surgery. Advocacy is one important way to do that, speaking for the ostomy and continent procedure community on public issues to governments and to corporations. If putting it that way sounds intimidating, like something you could never do, just wait. Look at how we can help.

An OAB example: When a conference committee of the Massachusetts legislature was considering the Prescription Advantage program, we learned that there was an outside chance that ostomy equipment could be covered under that plan.

Sterling Alam

We recruited enough people so that each committee member got a call. Some of the conference committee members got five calls from voters in his or her district. We convinced the legislature, but the administration implemented it in a very limited way. We showed ourselves, though, that we could make a difference.

A UOA example: UOA is using the Internet in a way that is more powerful than anyone could imagine until you try it for yourself. The web site is Click on Advocacy and be prepared not only to look but also to act, to become an advocate! You will get a lot of information on several current issues. You will learn why the legislative initiative is important to us, what congress is doing about it now, and the important conference committee members to focus on.

Then you will get a chance to contact your Senator or Representative by clicking on a letter UOA already wrote, by modifying it, if you prefer, or by writing your own e-mail. You can also click on an opportunity to contact the UOA Government Affairs Chair with suggestions or questions. At the time of this writing, the issue of "Competitive Bidding" is important. By the time this OAB Bulletin is printed, mailed, and received, I do not know what may have happened in Congress. The UOA web site will know, though, and bring you up to date. That's an easy way to become an advocate.

I have been active in legislative advocacy at the national and local level, so over time I’ve become familiar with some of the terms and concepts regarding health care reimbursement changes.

For example, "Competitive Bidding" is a proposal that Medicare pay for ostomy supplies only if purchased at the one lowest bid dealer (or distributor of ostomy supplies) in a region, or from another dealer who will match the low bidder's price. It is my opinion that this is a foolish but dangerous attempt to save money by encouraging companies toward monopolizing and ultimately, decreasing competitive motivations to improve quality. The one dealer or supplier you will be required to use will likely not have to meet any standards of quality or service, nor will he be required to carry all brands or styles of ostomy equipment. If the other suppliers and small manufacturers are put out of business, as is likely if the current trend toward monopoly continues, it will affect all of us, whether we are on Medicare or not.

Stay tuned on Help us advocate for health care reimbursement changes that are crucial to all of us with ostomies and continent procedures.