July 16, 2024 8:14 am
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Coloradans With Limb Loss Should Have Access to Prosthetics Designed for Physical Activities | Opinion

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by Kristine McMahon, Colorado Newsline

Colorado has a well earned reputation for being one of the most outdoorsy and physically active states in the nation. We have 42 state parks, four national parks, 28 ski resorts and 8.3 million acres of public lands. If we’re not in the backcountry, on the slopes or on a mountain bike, we can usually be found enjoying one of our state’s abundant local parks and open spaces. Many of us consider being physically active a right and an important part of being a Coloradan.

However, not all Coloradans have equal access to movement and recreational activities.

For hundreds of Coloradans with limb loss and difference, physical activity is limited to the type and quality of their prosthesis. Many of the prosthetic limbs designed for everyday use are not able to be used for physical activities because they are less flexible and the sockets are not designed for movement. This means that many people must obtain a second, more flexible and specially-designed prosthetic to engage in physical activities like running, cycling and swimming.

Unfortunately, health insurance is not currently required to cover more than one prosthetic device. This means that too many individuals and families are unable to afford the out-of-pocket costs to purchase and fit the athletic prosthetic that will allow them or their loved ones to be physically active.

I am the mother to Braden McMahon, a 5-year-old amputee. Life for him would be drastically improved if he had a device to help him run as fast as his peers and keep up while playing the many sports he plays, such as soccer, basketball, and ninja course. While Braden can do “what other kids can do,” he does lack the stability and mobility to excel in these areas without a proper device.

Through my work in advocating for Braden, I’ve met David Schlict. David is a 17-year-old who had to have his right leg amputated after a catastrophic ski training accident. He was lucky enough to receive a recreational limb through a nonprofit foundation but knows that many people who are living with limb loss and differences haven’t been as lucky. Because of this nonprofit donation, he has been able to get back to one of his life’s passions, skiing, and remain active.

Requiring insurance coverage for two prosthetics is the compassionate and humane thing to do.

I want Braden to be able to enjoy the full range of activities that David has been able to participate in thanks to his second prosthesis. All Coloradans deserve the chance that I had as a child to live a fuller, more physically active life.

The state of Colorado should require insurance companies to cover an additional athletic prosthetic limb if it is medically indicated and approved by a patient’s treating physician. Based on a fiscal and social impact analysis done by Kehoe et al., the average insurance plan cost would increase the cost of individual insurance plans by less than 10 cents per month. The analysis is set to be published by Medical Research Archives, an international scientific peer-reviewed journal, in May 2023.

Not only would requiring coverage for an every day and athletic prosthesis directly benefit the hundreds of people who use prosthetic limbs in Colorado by allowing them to fully engage in the recreational activity of their choice, it would also create a benefit for taxpayers as a whole by helping ensure that people who use prosthetic limbs don’t develop many of the chronic diseases associated with sedentariness. People who experience above the knee amputations are four times more likely to develop heart disease. People who receive medically necessary and appropriate prosthetic care and access are less likely to end up in institutional settings, which are expensive and generally result in poorer health outcomes.

In addition to the cost savings that families would receive by not having to pay out-of-pocket for a second athletic limb and Colorado taxpayers would save in future health care costs, requiring insurance coverage for two prosthetics is the compassionate and humane thing to do. Access to a second prosthetic limb through insurance companies would improve the quality of life for so many living with limb differences.

This story was written by Kristine McMahon, who is a mom advocate for her son, Braden, who was born with fibular hemimelia and underwent an amputation at 11 months old and contributor to the Colorado Newsline, where this story first appeared.

Colorado Newsline is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Colorado Newsline maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Quentin Young for questions: info@coloradonewsline.com. Follow Colorado Newsline on Facebook and Twitter.