Members of Congress Receive Legislative Awards from National Amputee Organizations

The Amputee Coalition of America (ACA) and the American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) announced that senators Tom Harkin and Olympia J. Snowe and representatives Robert E. Andrews, George Miller and Lincoln Diaz-Balart are recipients of their joint organizations’ 2009 Legislative Appreciation Awards.

The awards were presented at a mini-Hill Day event, with more than 40 amputees and advocates from around the country also visiting Capitol Hill to make specific recommendations to Congress for the inclusion of prosthetic arms and legs in the national health care reform legislation.

“For their commitment, dedication and service to ensuring quality health care for amputees and their effort to make certain that fair insurance coverage is available for prosthetic arms and legs, we are proud to present these awards as a token of our appreciation to these members of Congress,” Kendra Calhoun, president and chief executive officer of the ACA, said in a press release.

Calhoun emphasized that health care for amputees needs fair consideration in any health care reform proposal.

“Amputees are no longer a hidden part of our society and they need to be heard in the health care debate,” she said.

The ACA and other disability groups have heralded the inclusion in the health care reform bills of guaranteed issue and renewal of coverage in the individual and small group markets, the prohibition of pre-existing health condition exclusions and the end of annual and lifetime insurance caps, with a limit on out-of-pocket spending. According to Calhoun, amputees also want a guarantee that they will have fair access to prostheses.

In May, Andrews introduced the “Prosthetic and Custom Orthotic Parity Act of 2009” (HR 2575), which required employer-paid health plans to provide coverage for prosthetic and custom-fabricated orthotic devices on par with the coverage offered for other medical and surgical services. Harkin and Snowe co-sponsored a similar prosthetic parity bill in the Senate in 2008 and are working on introducing a new bill this year. Miller and Diaz-Balart also signed onto the House bill as lead sponsors.

“At a time when health care costs are rising by about 7% annually, the financial hardship on those in need of prosthetic devices is devastating,” Andrews said. “Yet, by expanding coverage for prosthetic devices so that it is on par with other types of essential care, not only will amputees receive necessary treatment and experience better quality of life, but the health care industry as a whole will save money. Since prosthetics often dramatically decrease secondary health problems for those in need, the benefits of this coverage far outweigh the costs in the long run.”

Though 17 states have passed similar prosthetic parity laws, amputee advocates still say that there needs to be a national law.

“These state laws have helped many people,” Tom Fise, executive director of AOPA, said. “But they are not enough. Without a federal law, there will always be amputees who fall through the cracks.”

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