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Boston Marathon Bomb Amputees Offered Free Prosthetic Limbs
May 1, 2013
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Boston Marathon bombing victim Heather Abbott at an April 25 press conference (Photo: Reuters)

At least 15 victims of the Boston Marathon bombings lost limbs in the attack.

Now, a trade group representing makers of artificial limbs is promising to provide prosthetics free of cost to those who underwent amputations, Reuters reports.

The American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) says it will pay for any initial services and prosthetics not covered by insurance.

The help might be needed, as artificial limbs can get expensive: a below-knee device averages between $8,000 and $12,000, and above-the-knee prosthetics cost anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000, according to prosthetist Greig Martino, who is treating bombing victims.

According to the Amputee Coalition, an advocacy group based in Manassas, Virginia, insurance companies regularly cap payouts at $2,500 or $5,000, making it difficult even for people who are insured to afford a full prosthesis.

"The Coalition to Walk and Run Again," - the name AOPA gave to its initiative - is intended to help ease the burden.

AOPA graphic (Image: AOPAnet.org)

"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," said AOPA Executive Director Tom Fise.

The AOPA's offer won't cover long-term medical costs for amputees: Fise says victims who lost both legs will face estimated medical bills of $500,000 over their lifetime, as prosthetic limbs generally need replacing every five to seven years.

Many of those who lost limbs were active people before the attack, and the AOPA aims to provide them with prosthetics that will help them run or exercise again.

"Being a serious runner requires a specialized prosthesis," said Charles Dankmeyer, who owns an orthotics and prostheses company in Linthicum, Maryland. "Most insurers are going to cover a prosthesis for one person for daily use, but not for any specialized uses ... We're looking to be able to help with that."

So the victims of the Boston bombing who are not covered, or only partially covered by insurance, will get their first artificial limbs at no cost - but advocates point out that's not the case for most people in the country.

There are 2 million amputees in the U.S, and many have had to pay all or part of the cost of their prosthetics out of pocket, according to the Amputee Coalition.

USA Today reports that the Amputee Coalition has successfully lobbied in 20 states to make artificial limbs more affordable, often by making it illegal for insurers to put a cap on the amount they'll pay toward a new arm or leg.

The group has also introduced the idea at the federal level during each of the last three sessions of Congress, and is working in 20 other state legislatures to get the same laws passed.

The issue of health insurance is a big one in the U.S. A study released on Tuesday found that nearly half of U.S. adults aged 19 to 64 - that's about 84 million people - did not have health insurance for all of 2012, or had insurance that was inadequate to protect them from high health care costs.

Growing numbers of workers and their families are foregoing care because they can't afford it, according to the study from the New York-based Commonwealth Fund.

The only group that appears to be improving in terms of healthcare coverage is young adults, aged 19 to 26. The percentage of uninsured people in that age range fell from 48 per cent in 2010 to 41 per cent in 2012.

But more than two in five adults reported problems with medical bills, according to the study.

Meantime, Boston police have taken three more suspects into custody. Two of them are college friends of bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev.

They're accused of removing a backpack containing fireworks emptied of gunpowder from Tsarnaev's dorm room three days after the attack, to keep him from getting into trouble.

Two of the suspects were charged with conspiring to obstruct justice. A third man was charged with lying to investigators about the visit to Tsarnaev's room.


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