Those Who Lost Limbs in the Boston Bombing Will Get (Mostly) Free Prosthetics

The Atlantic
Those Who Lost Limbs in the Boston Bombing Will Get (Mostly) Free Prosthetics
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Those Who Lost Limbs in the Boston Bombing Will Get (Mostly) Free Prosthetics

The American Orthotic and Prosthetic Association (AOPA) told reporters on Tuesday afternoon that it would provide prosthetics to the estimated 20 to 25 victims of the Boston bombings who lost limbs. Because the bombs were placed on the ground, many of the victims will need new legs which cost between $8,000 and $12,000 for below-the-knee prosthetics and $40,000 to $60,000 for above-the-knee devices. That means that the total cost of the all the prosthetics could be as high as $1.5 million. "The last thing that someone should have to worry about when they lose ... a leg is to have adequate insurance coverage for a prosthetic device," said Kendra Calhoun, head of the Amputee Coalition.

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And if the experiences of American military amputees is any guide, these victims might also get the most advanced prosthetics and physical therapy out there. Veterans have long been the recipients of innovative devices, and doctors have been perfecting the recovery process over the past few years. These advances are a bright side to the darkness of war but stand to change the lives of many. Since military surgeries have already influenced how the Boston victims were treated, it's not unreasonable to believe that the recovery process will be similarly filled with support..

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It's a tremendously generous offer, but it's not enough. While the AOPA says it will cover the cost of the devices themselves, the actual cost of losing a limb is much higher that the price tag on the prosthetic. Some will be stuck with bills as high as half a million dollars. But the safety net cast by countless charities and fund-raising efforts around the country in the past couple of weeks is broad. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Tufts Health Plan and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care have already said that they won't charge any co-payments or out-of-pocket fees for those injured in the blasts, and one fund set up for victims, appropriately named the One Fund, has already raised over $27.7 million that will be paid out to victims.

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This is all terrific news. The Boston Marathon bombings were awful unprovoked acts of violence, and innocent people shouldn't have to pay for the evil of others. That said, some are concerned that the media circus that's been swarming around the Boston bombings is stealing attention (and dollars) away from the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, which was in fact a deadlier tragedy. The Insurance Council estimates that the cost of property losses alone with top $100 million, while the medical bills for the 200 odd people injured will probably be comparable to those in Boston. The Texas victims have some help but not much. As the fund in Boston approaches $30 million, it looks like comparable efforts in Texas have collected well under $1 million so far.

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