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Sugarman JR, Reiber GE, Baumgardner G, Prela CM, Lowery J. Use of the therapeutic footwear benefit among diabetic Medicare beneficiaries in three states, 1995. Diabetes Care. 1998 May 1; 21(5):777-81.
OBJECTIVE: To determine the extent to which Medicare provided reimbursement for therapeutic footwear to diabetic Medicare beneficiaries in Washington, Alaska, and Idaho in 1995. RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS: Using inpatient, outpatient, and durable medical equipment claims data, we selected a cohort of diabetic Medicare beneficiaries. Therapeutic footwear claims were identified using a set of billing codes intended only for the diabetes footwear benefit. People at "high risk" or "possibly increased risk" for foot problems who might benefit from therapeutic footwear were identified using a combination of International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision, Clinical Modification (ICD-9-CM) diagnostic codes in any of the databases. RESULTS: Among 608,804 beneficiaries, 10.2% (62,170) met the inclusion criteria for diabetes. Of the diabetic beneficiaries, 13.0% (8,079) had at least one "high risk" diagnosis, and 14.0% (8,686) had at least one "possibly increased risk" diagnosis. The percentage of diabetic beneficiaries with therapeutic footwear claims was 2.9% among those with diagnoses high risk, 0.7% among those with diagnoses indicating possibly increased risk, and 0.1% among those with no diagnosis from the list. Altogether, only 0.6% of beneficiaries meeting the diabetes case ascertainment criteria had a therapeutic footwear claim in 1995. CONCLUSIONS: Few diabetic Medicare beneficiaries in Washington, Alaska, and Idaho had claims for reimbursement for therapeutic footwear in 1995. The low utilization of the footwear benefit may represent an important opportunity to improve care for Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes. Further work should be done to characterize the use of the benefit in other regions and to assess whether the low level of usage reflects underutilization.