Tag Archives: amputees

More whimsy, less ‘whining’ in support group

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Laurie Udesky and David Dudley of Consumer Health Interactive put together a multimedia video presentation on the wacky international amputee support group Stumps R Us (click here to go directly to the presentation).

Much of the video was filmed at the group’s annual bowling outing, where founder and “Chief Stump” Dan Sorkin was quick to unleash his irreverent wit. “Alan Fisk, our athletic director, is a quadruple amputee and you saw him bowl,” Sorkin said, over a shot of Fisk hurling the ball with a special bowling prosthesis. “He’s terrible!”

Sorkin, who gives new members a free flight lesson, describes the change that comes over new amputees when he shows them that they don’t have to be either serious or sedentary. Many of them take to his whimsical attitude immediately.

“People at this group are positive,” one member said. “If they’re not, they don’t last more than one or two meetings.”

The presentation also profiles the group’s prosthetist, Wayne Koniuk, who talks about the difficulty of helping patients “trick mother nature” and “walk on parts of their bodies that were never meant to be walked on.”

Another profile focuses on amputee Chad Crittenden who became so comfortable with the prosthetic attached to his right leg that he was able to compete in triathlons, join a competitive soccer team and appear on the television reality show “Survivor.”

This entry, from AHCJ member Laurie Udesky, is nominated for a 2009 Webbie award. If you’d like to vote for the piece, click here.

Advocates call for enhanced prosthetic insurance

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Unlike Medicare or Medicaid, private insurers often cap annual coverage for prosthetics. In recent years, some insurers have reduced or eliminated these caps, driving up patient costs for already-expensive prosthetics and sparking a nationwide push for so-called “prosthetic parity,” or an equality in prosthetic coverage for public and private insurers. The almost decade-long effort is making headlines again, with several states passing or considering legislation in 2008 and 2009.

by Susan Schulman  via Flickr

by Susan Schulman via Flickr

Eleven states have passed laws requiring private insurers to offer prosthetic coverage equal to Medicare standards or to hip and joint replacement coverage, and amputee advocates are pushing for legislation in a number of other states (including Pennsylvania, Utah, Texas, Idaho and Iowa) and at the federal level (alternative link).

The organization behind the campaign, the Amputee Coalition of America, estimates that almost 2 million Americans are living without limbs, and says 185,000 more amputations are performed each year. The ACA says that while prosthetic limbs often have a lifespan of 3 to 5 years, many private insurers either place a lifetime cap on coverage of prosthetic purchases or will only cover the purchase of one such device during a patient’s lifetime. According to the ACA, financial hardship is the main obstacle preventing amputees from gaining access to prosthetics.

It is well known that lack of access to these devices leads to poor rehabilitation outcomes, and places amputees at a greater risk of developing dangerous and costly secondary conditions such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and additional amputation. These in turn lead to decreases in mobility, productivity and the ability to live independently. These factors combine to create additional costs of care, significantly impact the quality of life and shorten life expectancy.

Here’s the ACA’s campaign and talking points (PDF).