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Legislation would have insurance companies cover cost of prosthetic devices

A plastic hand-shaped device with three raised fingers rested on the desk before her as she spoke.

Moments earlier, Rep. Erin Koegel (DFL-Spring Lake Park) had been wearing this device to have a full set of fingers on her left hand.

Koegel sponsors HF3339 that would mandate private sector health coverage of orthotic and prosthetic devices, supplies, accessories, systems, and services in an amount equal to or more than provided under Medicare.

“I was lucky that this happened to me late in life, so I had 40 years with all 10 fingers, but some people don’t have that and lose a limb at an early age,” Koegel said. “When you don’t have the proper equipment, it’s really limiting.”

Each finger on her prosthetic device costs between $5,000 and $20,000.

The House Health Policy and Finance Committee laid the bill over, as amended, Tuesday for possible inclusion in larger package.

Under current law, medical assistance covers orthotic and prosthetic devices, supplies, and services prescribed by a health care provider and determined to be the most appropriate model for physical activities, not limited to showering, bathing, running, biking, and swimming. The bill would add clarifying language in relation to this. 

Retired Dr. Elsa Keeler said her claim for a prescribed waterproof prosthetic knee and leg was denied by insurance because it wasn’t the standard model that met “minimum specifications.” Her older prosthetic leg had stopped working and was irreparable.

“I found myself wondering if I’m worthy,” Keeler said. “Active movement for people with limb loss is not a privilege, it is a necessity,” adding that she used her prosthetic knee and leg for daily movement, hiking, kayaking, portage canoeing, and cross-country skiing.

Nine-year-old Walker Ellis said he received a running blade leg from Wiggle Your Toes. “Now I can keep up with all my friends when we play,” he said.

Letters of support were presented to the committee by the American Orthotic & Prosthetic Association; National Association for the Advancement of Orthotics & Prosthetics; American Academy of Orthotists & Prosthetists; Amputee Coalition; Minnesota Society of Orthotists, Prosthetists & Pedorthists; and Wiggle Your Toes.

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