Friday, March 13, 2009

The Amputee Coalition of America and Nearly 200 Amputees and Patient Advocates Go to Washington

(BUSINESS WIRE)--On Tuesday, March 10, the Amputee Coalition of America had nearly 200 amputees and patient advocates from 34 states in Washington, D.C., to urge members of Congress to support fair insurance coverage for artificial arms and legs. Their message was simple: Arms and legs are not a luxury!

These citizen lobbyists made this trip to tell lawmakers that they need their own “bailout.” Many of them have nightmarish stories of fighting with insurance companies to try to get the prosthetic devices they need to work and live.

“Insurance companies are unrealistically limiting reimbursement of prosthetic arms and legs or summarily electing not to cover them at all,” said Kendra Calhoun, Amputee Coalition president and CEO. “We intend to turn this tide, and this event is a great example of the grassroots support we have from across the country. Arms and legs are not luxury items. Mobility is a serious issue for amputees who want to keep their jobs, take care of their families, and live healthy, active lives.”

Jeffrey Cain, MD, is a bilateral lower-limb amputee and a member of the Amputee Coalition’s Board of Directors and Medical Advisory Committee. Dr. Cain is an excellent example of how prosthetic devices can help amputees function in their daily lives and contribute to society rather than become dependent on it.

“Being able to have prosthetic devices means that I can take care of my patients and teach medical students,” said Dr. Cain.

Unfortunately, working people with employer-provided health insurance plans are often the ones with the biggest problems, Dr. Cain noted. “Because employer-provided insurance plans are increasingly introducing unreasonable limits and caps, if you have a job in America – if you are a hardworking member of society – you can’t afford a leg to stand on. It’s gotten that bad.”

In fact, some insurance companies are providing coverage for only one prosthesis per lifetime or eliminating coverage completely.

“Even for older adults, it is absurd to expect them to use only one prosthesis in their lifetime,” Calhoun said. “No one would expect a person to wear a single pair of shoes their entire life, and prosthetic devices should be no different.”

These types of insurance company practices pose especially grave challenges for families of children with limb loss.

Rick Castro, of Connecticut, took two of his children to the event because he wanted to try to get better prosthetic coverage for all families, including his own. Castro’s 4-year-old daughter Jennifer was born missing part of her arm below the elbow, and Castro is well aware that, as she grows, she’ll need several highly expensive prosthetic devices.

“When people find out that their insurance company doesn’t provide fair coverage for prosthetic devices, what do they do?” asked Dr. Cain. “They mortgage their homes, raid their children’s college fund, go into debt, turn to government programs for assistance, or are forced to have bake sales to try to pay for these medically necessary and often very expensive devices. That’s pretty sad, especially when they’ve paid their insurance premiums for years for this very purpose.”

David Ross, of New York City, lost part of his right hand and his right leg above the knee after he was mugged and thrown in front of a subway in 1997. He’s seen what happens when amputees have to settle for devices that are not really what they need because of the limitations in their insurance policies, and that’s what brought him to Capitol Hill.

“It’s so unfair that prosthetics are not covered by health insurance plans to the same degree that other conditions are,” Ross said. “It’s a shame that a lot of my fellow amputees who have already had to get over a traumatic accident or being born without a limb have to fight for something that should already be included in their insurance policy.”

Robert D. Doty, Jr., MD, who lost his left arm as a result of a car falling on him, has had problems with his insurance company not understanding – or not acknowledging – his prosthetic needs.

“My carrier did not want to cover a body-powered prosthesis after covering a myoelectric prosthesis,” Doty said. “The company said that one prosthesis is as good as another and that they can do the same thing, which is not true. I can’t do anything around water, liquids, chemicals or heavy machinery or do any heaving lifting with my myoelectric prosthesis without damaging it. It’s great for doing fine, precise work, but if I’m going to be doing heavy lifting or working around water or liquids, a body-powered prosthesis is better. I really need both.”

As these nearly 200 citizen lobbyists hustled from office to office, they made it clear that they want change. In a single day, they made more than 60 Senate visits and more than 100 House visits. In addition, 26 organizations, including disability rights groups and O&P [orthotic and prosthetic] professional organizations, have now signed on with the Amputee Coalition of America to help move this legislation forward.

“We are thrilled with the results of the day,” said Morgan Sheets, the Amputee Coalition’s national advocacy director. “We are already hearing from House and Senate members who are interested in co-sponsoring our bills and supporting our efforts for fair coverage of artificial arms and legs. The turnout exceeded our expectations, and the great enthusiasm of the participants has certainly encouraged us to continue this important fight for fairness.”

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Panel Discussion to Address Impacts of Today's Economy on Retirement

Behind The Headlines: Making the Most of Your Retirement targeted to 70 + age group

WHO: Discussion members include Donna Barwick, J.D., Senior Director of Wealth Management for The Bank of New York Mellon; Henry Bowden, founder of The Bowden Law Firm; John J. Geraghty, Executive Vice-President of SunTrust Bank; Jim Hansberger, Managing Director, The Hansberger Group; and Michael A. Mohr, Managing Director of The Bank of New York Mellon in Atlanta. Emory Schwall, an Atlanta attorney, Certified Estate Planner and Special Assistant Attorney General for the State of Georgia representing the Insurance Commission, will moderate the discussion.

WHAT: Just how has the change in economy affected retirement? What’s it going to take to retire with security, manage long-term health care, and protect one's estate? Where are the financial risks? A panel of financial experts will discuss these questions and more at the discussion, “Behind the Headlines: Making the Most of Your Retirement.” The discussion will address estate planning, asset allocation, health care management, living wills, retirement strategies and other topics of interest to the 70+ age group.

WHEN: Monday, March 16, 2009, from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

WHERE: Woodruff Auditorium of the Atlanta History Center

WHY: The panel discussion is in response to recent news stories about the economy, much of which is aimed at baby boomers and their challenges, but little directly relating to people already enjoying retirement. The event is one in a three-part series hosted by Peachtree Hills Place, a residential community offering a continuum of care in Buckhead for people ages 55 and older, that will discuss the issues directly affecting this demographic.

Please Note: The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. For more information or to register, call Peachtree Hills Place at 404-467-4900
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Monday, March 02, 2009

Government To Help Pay Health Insurance For Out Of Work Americans

(SPM Wire) Americans who lost their jobs or will lose their jobs anytime between September 1, 2008 and the end of 2009 are about to find it easier to afford health care insurance.

The federal government has announced it temporarily will pay for 65 percent of the cost of health insurance for laid-off workers who lost their jobs during this period.

This provision was signed into law as part of the recent economic stimulus plan and will provide people with up to nine months of partial payments for their health care premiums. The money is available to those whose yearly adjusted gross income doesn't exceed $125,000 or $250,000 for those who file their taxes jointly.

The payments will be made through what is known as COBRA, a federal regulation that allows employees to keep their company health insurance for up to 18 months after they leave their jobs. Now, the government will help subsidize 65 percent of ex-employee COBRA premium payments if they lost their jobs during the qualifying period.

And workers who had turned down COBRA benefits can reapply and receive the subsidy if their layoffs occurred since September 1, 2008.

The new stimulus plan covers premium payments for coverage periods beginning after February 17 - the date the plan was signed into law - and is not retroactive for coverage prior to this date.

Don't wait too long to apply for the new government subsidy, as there is a window during which you are eligible, depending on when you lost your job.

There is some fine print, however, as many Americans who have been recently terminated worked for companies with fewer than 20 employees. These small businesses generally aren't eligible for COBRA, since it only applies to businesses employing more than 20 individuals. Speak with your employer if you have any questions.

For more information about COBRA, which itself became law in 1985, visit the U.S. Department of Labor Web site at

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