O&P community reaches out to bombing victims

'Ten days ago, they were walking; now they are not'
Friday, May 24, 2013

ALEXANDRIA, Va. – The O&P community wants to ensure that survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings will walk again.

The American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) on April 22 announced the formation of a coalition to provide, at no cost, initial prosthetic devices for uninsured/underinsured amputee victims of the April 15 tragedy.

“We had received a number of calls from members who were concerned about this,” said Executive Director Tom Fise. “There are some 20 or so people that 10 days ago, they were walking and now they are not.”

The coalition will use its national network of more than 2,000 facilities and suppliers to provide the care.

It’s the least they can do, says Fise.

“If you have a 20-year-old that needs prosthetic care for the next 55 years—I am not sure how you grapple with that, but at least we can ensure, at this stage, that their insurance coverage is not limiting their ability to access the best prosthetic care that can be provided for them,” said Fise.

Insurance coverage for prosthetic devices is often woefully inadequate, with lifetime caps and other limits that can put devices out of reach for some patients, especially young adults, he says. While the cost of care varies widely, depending on injury and device, it’s substantial, says Fise. For example, a young person with an active lifestyle could spend anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000 for an initial prosthetic device.

“If you take that as a barometer, they live to age 75, they may need 11 or 12 prosthetic devices over their lives,” he said. “As they get older, usage may decline, but we are talking about something that is well north of $100,000 in care over a lifetime.”

While the coalition has “no publicity agenda” other than to help, the events in Boston highlight the need for better insurance coverage for prosthetics, says Fise. Although about 20 states have passed so-called prosthetic parity bills to require insurers to provide coverage similar to other major medical coverage, several bills introduced in the Senate, in 2008, 2010 and 2011, have failed.