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What's On Your Mind-Doug Dean-Prosthetics & Insurance

11:45 AM, Jun 22, 2008   |    comments
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What's on the Mind of Public Utilities Chairman Doug Dean is making sure those who have lost their arms and legs don't have to bankrupt themselves to get help. "It seems ethically implausible that amputees in the state of Colorado would be deprived prosthetic arms and legs, because their health insurance plans do not cover them. I was first made aware of this situation in 2000, when I was the Colorado State House Majority Leader. The Colorado Coalition for Working Amputees - the CCWA - approached me for sponsorship of a bill, which would allow amputees health insurance coverage for prosthetic arms and legs. I was surprised at the very least to learn that the trend in health insurance was to eliminate coverage for prosthetic limbs. I immediately saw the burden that would be placed on the state and on amputees, if they could not afford their prosthetic arms and legs. I saw great benefit in this bill and introduced it, with pride and conviction, in the House of Representatives.

In 2000, the Colorado Legislature passed the Prosthetic Parity bill into law, allowing thousands of Colorado amputees health insurance coverage for their prosthetic limbs. Not only did this legislation provide many Colorado amputees health insurance coverage for their prosthetic limbs, allowing them a better and more fulfilling life, but it also allowed many to once again join the work force, and establish themselves as productive citizens of our state.

Colorado was the first state in the country to pass this legislation. We saw the handwriting on the wall with some of the health insurance companies disallowing coverage for prostheses. The trend in health insurance coverage was to lump prosthetic devices into the category of durable medical equipment, which is capped off at a low amount of money annually. This type of coverage basically makes it impossible to cover prostheses. The legislators in Colorado and Governor Owens understood the social and economic impact on amputees in our state if they would have to be completely responsible financially for their prosthetic limbs. We understood that many people would be dependent on the state for support if they could not get back to work, and that many people could be financially devastated if they had no insurance coverage for their prosthesis.

The CCWA provided a cost analysis to the legislature, which showed that health insurance coverage for prostheses would cost less than one cent per insurance dollar. This very minimal amount proved that allowing prosthetic coverage for amputees would not negatively impact the health insurance industry financially, and would favorably impact the State and Colorado amputees financially. The Prosthetic Parity bill was overwhelmingly passed in both the House and the Senate, and signed into law effective 2001.
Over the past seven years, nine more states have passed this legislation with the help of
the Amputee Coalition of America. The ACA is a nationally-based association which lends information and support to all people dealing with limb loss, and has been actively driving a national Prosthetic Parity bill since we passed our bill here in Colorado.

All amputees in Colorado who are privately insured and insured through group insurance are now assured prosthetic coverage through their health insurance. However, companies who self-insure are not regulated through state health insurance laws, and as a consequence any amputee who works for these companies slips through that loophole and is not covered under the Prosthetic Parity Bill.

This year, the Prosthetic Parity Act was introduced in the 110th Congress of the United States. This act is a true bipartisan effort to provide better health insurance coverage for prosthetic devices for amputees everywhere in our country. Even though we now have the law that provides most of our Colorado citizens prosthetic coverage, the Federal legislation would close the loophole and require that prostheses be covered regardless of your type of insurance, which will once again favorably impact our state and the amputee population.

As citizens of our state and of our country, it is important to voice your opinions about laws being considered by your representatives. We are fortunate that we have a form of government where we the people hold the ultimate power. If you don't use your voice, your thoughts and opinions will never be known by those representing you. I encourage all of you to write, call, or e-mail Senator Allard, Senator Salazar and your U. S. Congressman or Congresswoman to let them know your opinion about the Prosthetic Parity Act. Your voice can - and does - make a difference."

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