As the clock counted down to noon on Jan. 7, the last day of the legislative session, amputees, activists and others who backed the New Jersey parity bill waited anxiously to find out if Gov. Jon Corzine signed the bill into law. All of their hard work paid off that day as they were assured the bill was in fact signed and the bumps in the road to that end were worth the effort.
Pushing legislation forward
During the last few years, the presence of support for this bill has been impossible for legislators to avoid through the efforts of the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA), Amps in Action and the Prosthetics and Orthotics Society of New Jersey. Nancy Pinkin, the lead lobbyist behind the bill, said that at one point a legislator told her that they did not have enough legislators to vote for the bill as they oppose all mandate bills. She refused to take “no” for an answer – a defiance that came with a great accomplishment in this “David and Goliath” effort.
Assembling groups of amputees to call, write and gather at the governor’s office and state house, Pinkin was determined to keep this bill at the forefront of legislators’ minds. Holiday cards were sent as well wishing a happy holiday season with a picture of a child ice skating – the child pictured was also an amputee.
“We tried every single thing you would say to do for a lobbying effort,” Pinkin told O&P Business News. “We pulled out every effort and every single one was crucial.”
Stephen Rinko, CPO, president of the Prosthetics and Orthotics Society of New Jersey, also wanted to extend his thanks to the O&P business owners of New Jersey without whom – and their outpouring of financial donations and support – this bill would not have passed.
Result of efforts
The endless efforts have paid off and after years of pressing this legislation prosthetic parity coverage reaches practitioners and patients in New Jersey.
“It has been a long fight to get it passed,” Richard Bray, CPO, said. “We worked hard – the Orthotics and Prosthetics Association of New Jersey – in conjunction with our lobbyist Nancy Pinkin. The woman has a heart and she has met with a number of amputees over the course of the years and she began to realize how important this was for the amputee and brace wearing population and she really ran with it against a lot of odds.”
Morgan Sheets, the national advocacy director for the ACA, also commented about this latest development in the national battle for prosthetic parity.
“For less than a couple dollars per year, amputees in New Jersey will get the care they need to get back to work and live independent, productive lives,” Sheets told O&P Business News.
Impact on profession and patients
Questions are swirling about what this means for practitioners and patients and how soon that impact will be felt across the population. Bray explained that the basic coverage for amputees will change, allowing them to receive a prosthesis or a orthosis and that they will be guaranteed insurance coverage for what they need.
“This is not to get the biggest or the best but the best prescription for them,” Bray said. “As a prosthetist, it takes a little bit of a burden off us to try to do the right thing for the patient.”
Sheets commented on the significant impact the passing of this bill will have on the federal efforts being made.
“It is safe to say that this is the most comprehensive bill that has been passed thus far. This is incredibly exciting not only for the state campaign efforts, but also for the federal legislation,” Sheets said. “Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ) is the chairman of a key committee. He made calls into New Jersey to help pass this important legislation. We are excited to take the next step and introduce this bill into Congress.”
In a statement released from the Governor’s office, Corzine said, “I commend the sponsors of Senate Bill No. 502, which I signed today, for recognizing the importance of making sure that persons in need of orthotic or prosthetic appliances obtain them.”
Jennifer Hoydicz is a staff writer for O&P Business News.