Historic Bipartisan Bill Introduced in U.S. Senate Requires Meaningful Health Insurance Coverage for Amputees

A historic bipartisan bill was introduced on Sept. 19 in the U.S. Senate that would require health insurance companies to provide meaningful coverage for prosthetic care. The bipartisan bill, S. 3517 the “Prosthetics Parity Act of 2008,” is co-sponsored by Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Russell Feingold (D-WI) and supported by the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA). The bill is designed to ensure that amputees covered by employer-paid health insurance are able to access the prosthetic care they need to lead full and independent lives.

With the introduction of the Senate bill, both houses of Congress are now considering legislation requiring that insurance companies provide meaningful coverage of prosthetic care. “The Prosthetic Parity Act of 2008” was introduced in March into the U.S. House of Representatives. The bills require insurance companies to cover prosthetic care as they do all essential medical care, hence the phrase “prosthetic parity.”

“The legislation which we are introducing today – the Prosthetics Parity Act of 2008 – will ensure that group health plans treat coverage of such prosthetic devices on par with other essential medical care covered by health insurance. It does not mandate coverage, but it does assure than when it is offered, it is not so restricted or capped that it does not assure an amputee of the prosthetic they require,” Snowe said.

“Individuals with employer-paid health insurance deserve meaningful coverage for prosthetic care. Our Senators and Representatives are increasingly aware of the extent to which health insurers deny their enrollees meaningful coverage for prosthetic care, thus denying them the artificial limbs they need to live full lives,” Kendra Calhoun, president and chief executive officer of the ACA said. “Not only will this legislation save money in the public and private sectors,” Calhoun said, “but it will cover the many people who have never thought to ask if their insurance adequately covers limb loss. This bill will return people to work and help them reclaim their lives at no cost to taxpayers.”

“This proposed legislation ‘The Prosthetic Parity Act of 2008’ will put prosthetic devices where they belong – on par with other essential medical care covered by health insurance. It is parity, it is equity, and it is the right thing to do for amputees. We enthusiastically commend senator Snowe and senator Harkin for their leadership on this important issue,” Calhoun said.

There are nearly two million individuals living with limb differences or loss in the United States, including 70,000 under the age of 18. On average, each year 155,000 people in the United States lose a limb.

“This is even more so for the estimated 70,000 amputees under the age of 18. Sadly, we see those children particularly affected as their growth increases the frequency with which a prosthetic requires replacement. That can quickly exceed a parent’s ability to meet co-payment requirements – a coverage cap may deny access to a replacement prosthetic,” Snowe said.

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