In an effort to help the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association has formed a coalition with other O&P organizations — the Coalition to Walk and Run Again — to set up the Walk and Run Again coalition, which will help pay for patient care clinic services and orthotics and prosthetics that insurance may not cover.
“Immediately after the tragedy, we received calls from manufacturers and patient care facility members all asking the same question: What can we do to help?” Don DeBolt, chief operating officer of the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA), told O&P Business News. “So that resulted in a conference call where about a dozen people involved talked through various ways to help without duplicating efforts or getting in the way of what’s being done by other organizations in Boston and elsewhere.”
The main goal of the Walk and Run Again coalition is to provide clinical care, as well as prostheses, orthoses and mobility devices. The program is directed toward victims of the Boston Marathon bombing who are uninsured or underinsured. To be eligible for the program, a patient should receive a physician’s prescription for O&P care, and their injuries should be O&P related and caused by the bombing.
“Underinsured is probably where we’re going to find the most need because of the caps that some insurance companies have on prosthetics,” DeBolt said. “But, we have no idea what the demand is going to be. if everybody is fully insured, then there are no problems whatsoever, but we expect that there will be quite a few people that are going to need some kind of financial assistance in the form of free services and devices.”
With the help of practitioners, clinicians and manufacturers, AOPA was able to get the word out about the coalition to hospitals and the government, receiving about 60 to 100 volunteers within 24 hours of the announcement, according to DeBolt.
“We’re keeping a registry of people who said that they want to help from the patient care facility side and from manufacturers who offered to send the parts we need,” he said. “In a few weeks when patients are ready to head home, we’ll begin matchmaking volunteers with patients in their area.”
Throughout the planning of the Walk and Run Again coalition, DeBolt said they did not want to overshadow any other group that was trying to help victims in the Boston Marathon bombing.
“We want to be very sensitive to the fact that we’re not out to get any headlines or recognition or anything like that,” DeBolt said. “We just wanted to let people know that this is available as one of the things that may be needed by some of these victims.”
However, according to Tom Kirk, president of AOPA, this tragedy might bring the issue of caps and limitations on insurance for O&P care into the spotlight, which would be helpful to patients and the industry.
“We’ve been working with the legislature in Washington, both in the House and the Senate, as well as all the state levels, to address this issue of insurance fairness for amputees,” Kirk said. “We’re not trying to say that all insurance companies must provide coverage, but if insurance does provide coverage it should be the same as the type of coverage that would be provided for any covered medical services.”
“It’s a horrible way to get the message out,” Kirk said, “but hopefully that message will resonate and the folks that we’re working with today in the Boston tragedy might be paving the road a little bit for those that follow.”
Power in numbers
Along with AOPA, several groups are showing their support by helping with the coalition, including the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists (AAOP), the Amputee Coalition and the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics (NAAOP).
According to Peter D. Rosenstein, executive director of AAOP, the industry is waiting to see what kind of calls will come in terms of need.
“There’s always been a generous spirit of the O&P profession and the industry,” Rosenstein said. “We said we’d be very supportive of what AOPA was doing. We will be happy to go out to our network and our members and let them know when a particular individual is looking for help in a particular area and urge one of our members in that area to offer help.”
“I think the bottom line is that it’s no surprise that the outpouring of support from members has been so spontaneous,” DeBolt added.
Practitioners interested in volunteering or patients in need can email info@AOPANet.org or scuster@AOPANet.org or call Stephen Custer at (571) 431-0876. — by Casey Murphy
Disclosure: DeBolt and Kirk are associated with the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association. Rosenstein is associated with the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists.