Local News

Medicare proposal to limit amputees with prosthetics

Posted August 12, 2015 4:00 p.m. EDT
Updated August 17, 2015 5:28 p.m. EDT

Medicare is making a proposal that would deny access to many people who need prosthetic limbs.

The proposal, made on July 16 by four durable medical equipment Medicare administrative contractors, would make it more difficult for amputees to get their prosthetic limbs covered. Crutches, walkers and wheelchairs may be a patient’s only option if the proposal passes.

The goal of Medicare is to save money and eliminate fraud, but patients who rely on prosthetic limbs for their quality of life said the new proposal would limit their day-to-day activities.

North Carolina Orthotics and Prosthetics builds limbs for and fits about 120 patients across the state a year to allow them to function normally and live independently.

If the Medicare proposal passes, many of their clients would be denied coverage for prosthetics that average $20,000 to $40,000 apiece.

In 2001, Stella Sieber's life changed forever when she stopped to help a driver injured in an accident.

"Driver hit the back of my car,” Sieber said. “It made me an instant above the knee amputee.”

Because of her artificial limbs, Sieber, a scientific researcher, walks, drives and lives independently.

Sieber is leading the charge to prevent the new Medicare plan.

“These simple things that help me function and do my daily activity … I would be denied,” Sieber said. “And these simple things to replace would cost between $35,000 and $40,000.”

Logan Aldridge received an artificial limb after losing his arm in a boating accident when he was 13-years-old.

“It's troublesome to me to think that that someone would be told that they cannot have a standard of living that everyone in this world should be capable of,” Aldridge said.

Amputees across the country have signed a petition to get President Barack Obama’s attention. They achieved their goal of 100,000 signatures by Aug. 17.

There are currently about 2 million amputees in the United States. While everyone is not on Medicare, amputees said they are concerned that private insurance companies and the Department of Veterans Affairs will follow suit with Medicare’s proposal.