Tag Archives: prosthetics

MSNBC tells of earthquake amputees, soldiers

Andrew Van Dam

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.

In the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, an MSNBC team has set out to cover, through a variety of media, an American prosthetic group working at a rural hospital to fit limbs to hundreds of earthquake amputees. At the same time, the team is sharing personal essays written by American soldiers who lost limbs in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s an unusual post-disaster focus that has yielded some impressive stories.

Here are a few of the most notable dispatches:

Advocates call for enhanced prosthetic insurance

Andrew Van Dam

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).