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Virginia Amputees Challenge Insurance Lobby to Compromise
Date:2/2/2009

General Assembly Votes Tuesday on SB 1116, and whether to cover cost of artificial limbs

ROANOKE, Va., Feb. 2 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Virginia's insurance lobby continues to fight hard against passage of a bill that would require insurance companies to offer coverage for artificial limbs as an option to their policyholders. The insurance industry wants to continue treating prosthetic limbs as a medical luxury while amputees demand that the costs be treated the same as other major medical expenses. To make progress in their efforts, amputees offered a compromise and ask the insurance companies to work with them on taking a step in the right direction.

On Thursday in Virginia's General Assembly, Senator Fred Quayle, one of the bill's (SB 1116) supporters recently amended the proposed legislation's language, changing it from a "required benefit" to an "offered benefit." The change requires insurers to offer and make available prosthetic coverage that treats the cost of artificial limbs in the same way policies cover other major medical expenses, but unlike the original legislation, it does not mandate that every policy contain this coverage.

"For the past two years, amputees in Virginia have been fighting for passage of a bill that requires health insurers to cover the cost of prosthetic devices and components," says Charles Coulter, an amputee activist. "There's no reason that an amputation and the requisite follow-up care, including an artificial limb, aren't covered by health insurance like every other disease, such as cancer or a heart attack. By denying amputees coverage for artificial limbs, we're denying them the opportunity to return to the life they once knew, and forcing many to quit their jobs in order to qualify for Medicaid, which does cover prosthetic devices and care."

Maryland's insurance lobby, faced with a similar bill to mandate prosthetic coverage in that state, even pointed to Virginia's recently amended bill as one they would like to adopt.

"The fact that 11 other states have already passed similar legislation, with legislation pending in numerous other states, and that the insurance lobby in Virginia's neighboring state wants to adopt our bill, begs the question why this legislation is being opposed in Virginia," Coulter added.

These amendments ensure that, at the time of purchasing a health insurance policy, people are afforded the opportunity to make a choice about what type of prosthetic coverage they will receive.

"The reality today is that no one ever expects to lose a limb, and as a result, few people rarely think about how to pay for a prosthesis or even know what kind of coverage they have through their insurance policy, until they need a prosthesis," Coulter said. "To deny them coverage for an artificial limb and force them to a wheelchair denies them the opportunity to reclaim the life they once knew, and that's not right."

The Virginia Chamber of Commerce had spoken in opposition to SB 1116 in testimony before the Senate and House Commerce and Labor Committees. Upon learning of the compromise amendment, a representative for Chamber of Commerce said that they no longer had concerns about the legislation. A similar bill is being considered in the House of Delegates, HB 1977 offered by Delegate Lee Ware (R-Powhatan).


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SOURCE Working Amputee Virginians for Equality
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