Study: Up-front spending on O&P saves money long term

Thursday, August 29, 2013

WASHINGTON - Providing patients with orthotic and prosthetic devices saves taxpayers money in the long term, according to the findings of a new study released Aug. 27.

The study, conducted by health economist Dr. Allen Dobson and commissioned by the Amputee Coalition, found that Medicare spent the same or a comparable amount on patients who received devices as it did on those who needed the devices but did not receive them.

“This is a clear win for patients and a win for taxpayers,” stated Thomas F. Kirk, Ph.D, president of the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association, in a press release. “Not only do patients who get full orthotic and prosthetic treatment benefit the most, but it also ends up costing taxpayers less, in most cases.” 

The reason: The study suggests that the devices help patients not only rehabilitate, but also reduce hospitalizations and the use of costly live-in care facilities. Patients who received the devices had more physical therapy and rehabilitation, which kept them at home and out of facility-based care. Additionally, those who are more independent may have fewer emergency-room visits and hospitalizations.

According to the study, which examined the claims of 42,000 paired sets of patients between 2007 and 2010, Medicare could experience 10% savings ($2,920 less) for those receiving lower extremity orthoses, and comparable amounts for patients receiving spinal orthoses and lower extremity prostheses.

“Looking at full costs and other outcomes (including use of outpatient therapy, number of falls, ER admissions and acute hospitalizations) over a 12- to 18-month period, our study concludes that patients who received the orthotic and prosthetic services experienced greater independence than patients who do not, with better or comparable health outcomes and generally lower Medicare payments,” Dobson stated.

The study is online at