The View From Here (18-02)

Justine Chichester with a red orchid in her hair

By: Justine Chichester

Before the beginning of this year, I had never contacted my representatives in any branch of government. Never sent a letter or made a phone call, even though there were many times I felt compelled to do so. It was during a session at physical therapy when I decided that needed to change.

I learned, very early on in my therapy, that Medicare limits how much outpatient therapy it will cover annually. In 2018, Medicare will cover up to $2,010 worth of physical therapy and $2,010 worth of occupational therapy per year. This would mean that Medicare recipients, like me and hundreds of thousands of people end up paying out of pocket for much-needed therapy after only a few weeks of visits when their Medicare coverage caps out. This could add up to thousands of dollars for people who are already on a fixed income.

My physical therapist mentioned to me during a session earlier this month that a vote was coming up in Congress to repeal the Medicare therapy cap. So, I did the research and decided to put my story, my voice down in writing, to our representatives in Washington. The following is part of the letter I sent:

I was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Was a cheerleader at South Miami Senior High and graduated with my Bachelor’s Degree from FIU. Unfortunately, three years ago, a fall in front of my house left me with a spinal infection, hydrocephalus and I am now a paraplegic. Never at 42 years old would I have anticipated the changes this would have on my life. I lost the ability to stand and to walk. My career soon followed, as I was unable to work.

 However, through vigorous physical therapy over the past two years I am starting to walk again. First it was just a few steps, now I am able to walk outside and close to the length of a football field. I am getting my life back, all because I have had this therapy which Medicare has provided to me. I am excited about the future now and am getting back on my feet. 

 If you are interested in seeing some of my brief therapy videos, showing my progress, standing and walking, please see my Instagram account at justinechichester 

 I think you will be very inspired by my story. This is why I ask you to please vote to repeal the Medicare cap so that those of us who truly are benefiting can continue to do so, and thousands more will be able to do so in the future. The cap is currently so limiting for those of us who need more than just a few visits. And the out of pocket cost would be astronomical for patients who are making progress getting back on their feet again.

I am pleased to report that as a part of their budget deal passed on February 9, 2018, Congress voted to end this hard cap on therapy.

John F. Kennedy once said, “One person can make a difference, and everyone should try.” I don’t know if I made any difference, but I would like to think that with my one letter, I at least had a voice in the fight.