Human tragedies often bring out the best in people . . . and companies. An amazing example of this reality can be found in the recently announced “Coalition to Run and Walk Again,” an effort that is bringing together orthotic and prosthetic companies to provide assistance to the uninsured and under-insured victims enduring amputations as a result of last month’s Boston Marathon bombing.
The coalition, created by the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association (AOPA), was formed to assist with the cost of prostheses and related care. In launching the initiative, AOPA officials said thousands of Americans facing amputations often must deal with severe limits in health insurance coverage, such as a cap of $1,000 per prostheses or coverage for only one artificial limb over the course of an individual’s lifetime. In practice, the care and cost of an initial prosthetic device could add up to $30,000 or more and often must be replaced every 5 to 7 years.
AOPA coalition partners are the Amputee Coalition, the American Academy of Orthotists and Prosthetists, and the National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics and Prosthetics.
“Our goal here as the makers of artificial limbs is to extend compassionate aid to the victims of the Boston terror attacks,” says AOPA Executive Director Tom Fise. “We extend our prayers and best wishes to all persons injured as a result of the bombings for a full and complete recovery to health, mobility and restored function, employment, and family life. We want to ensure that, in the midst of this horrific tragedy, these individuals are not further traumatized by the harsh and unreasonable limits that are present in all too many health insurance policies today in the United States. As an industry, we would not want to see these people victimized twice.”
Amputee Coalition President Kendra Calhoun commended the AOPA for its efforts. “The world becomes a very different place when you lose a limb, but the beautiful thing is that prosthetic devices can help people regain an amazing amount of function—and there should be no reason why every American amputee shouldn’t be fully functional, except that health insurance isn’t willing to pay for it.”
AOPA Vice President Charles Dankmeyer, founder of Dankmeyer, Inc, an orthotics and prosthetics firm in Linthicum, MD, recognizes his industry’s unique opportunity to help. “As the certified prosthetists and orthotists who practice in patient-care facilities, and the orthotic and prosthetic manufacturers who develop the technology and create the components for artificial limbs and customized bracing that restore mobility, we are in a unique position to offer needed assistance. We want to do whatever we can to help these fellow Americans as they start this challenging journey.”
Currently, there are an estimated 1.9 million people living with limb loss in the United States. Annually, the immediate health care costs for the amputation of a limb—not including prosthetic costs or rehabilitation costs—is estimated to total more than $8.3 billion. A recent study by the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs estimates 5-year prosthetic costs to be as high as $450,000 for a person with multiple limb amputations, $230,000 for a person with a unilateral lower-limb amputation, and $117,000 for a person with a unilateral upper-limb amputation. Studies estimate that the lifetime health care costs for a person with limb loss are more than $500,000 per person.
The Coalition will seek to use its national network to facilitate care for any Boston Marathon bombing victim for their prosthetic and orthotic needs (excluding physician and hospital costs), with the sole prerequisite being receipt of a letter from the victim's physician indicating that the patient was injured in the Marathon bombing, describing the specific needs of the patient, geographic information, and attesting that the patient's insurance coverage is insufficient to meet the costs of the prosthetic/orthotic care the patient needs.