(STATEHOUSE) Jan. 23, 2008 - House Bill 1140, authored by state Rep. Mike Murphy, passed out of the Insurance Committee today with a 9-1. The bill seeks to lift insurance coverage limits and exclusions on prosthetic limbs for the thousands of Hoosiers who, for one reason or another, need to use these devices to be safe and to live full, healthy and active lives.
A constituent contacted Rep. Murphy this summer and alerted him to a disturbing trend in insurance coverage affecting the lives of amputees throughout the country. In the hopes of reducing cost and reimbursements, many insurance companies have placed annual and lifetime limits on reimbursements for prosthetic limbs. These companies also have begun to evaluate the types of prosthetic limbs currently available, providing less reimbursement for newer and more technologically advanced prosthetic devices that increase the safety and quality of life of users.
"People who use prosthetic devices didn't choose their situation," said Rep. Murphy. "Often, they have been the victims of incredible tragedy. For these individuals to go without the devices they need because insurance will only cover five limbs over the course of their lifetime is wrong, and it goes against basic Hoosier principles."
There in the packed committee room was a small group of individuals who came to share their stories. They were there yesterday, too, but had to return today because HB 1140 had been pushed back due to a busy House schedule. Because of time constraints, only three people were able to testify before the committee.
Dr. Marifran Mattson, a professor at Purdue University, was first to address the committee for testimony. She told her emotional story, describing the motorcycle accident that took her leg. When the insurance company refused to reimburse the cost of her limb because it was labeled "experimental," she appealed their decision, and she won.
Next, a mother and son approached the committee, Nancy and Patrick VanMeter. Nancy told the story of her son's development with the use of a prosthetic arm. As her son grew and developed, so did prosthetic limb technology. With each advancement in prosthetic limb capability, Patrick was able to join his peers in reaching normal childhood milestones, like cutting paper with scissors, eating with utensils - and even, by junior high, lifting weights with other students in his physical education class.
However, insurance costs were high for the family, and the cost of Patrick's prosthetic limbs has never been fully reimbursed, causing undue economic burden to Patrick's parents who want nothing but for their son to have a healthy, productive and normal life. Patrick added to his mother's testimony by explaining how his prosthetic arm works and how it has made his life better. Many of his fellow classmates are not even aware that Patrick is missing one real arm.
Rep. Murphy closed the hearing on HB 1140, saying, "If you give people the full ability to have the limbs they need, there is no limit to what they can do."
House Bill 1140 is now eligible for second reading on the House floor, where the full House will have a change to amend the bill and debate related issues. The bill must pass third reading on the House floor before Wednesday, Jan. 30, in order to move to the Senate for review.
Rep. Murphy encourages local constituents to contact him with questions or concerns through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, by calling the Statehouse toll-free at 1-800-382-9841 or by writing him at 200 W. Washington St, Indianapolis, IN 46204.