Amputees and manufacturers of prosthetic devices have expressed their disapproval regarding a proposal from Medicare that would effectively limit the access of health program members to new prosthetic limbs.
Members of the American Orthotic Prosthetic Association and the Amputee Coalition announced their plans to conduct protests against Medicare's proposal to impose new requirements regarding its coverage for more advanced and more expensive prostheses for lower limbs.
The new proposal includes a requirement for the amputee to be able to walk naturally using the prosthetic limb and without the aid of a cane. Opponents of the Medicare plan view this standard to be offensive.
There are an estimated two million people living in the United States who have suffered from an amputation. While there are only around 150,000 currently enrolled to Medicare, critics of the health care program's plan believe that such a limiting proposal could also be adopted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and other private insurers.
Medicare reportedly spent around $655 million on services for prostheses in 2009.
Former U.S. senator Bob Kerrey from Nebraska, who lost a part of his right leg during his military service in Vietnam, called Medicare's new proposal a "stupid rule," and stated that it completely disregards the concerns of amputees.
The federal government is set to conduct a hearing regarding the revision of the proposal in Anne Arundel County, Maryland on Wednesday.
Medicare's proposal follows an audit by the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) inspector general in 2011 that discovered the government agency was allocating tens of millions of dollars on unnecessary prosthetic limbs, despite other health concerns from patients.
The HHS inspector general found that the health care program's spending for prostheses of lower limb by as much as 27 percent, from $517 million in 2005 to $655 million in 2009, despite the number of member patients decreasing by around 2.5 percent.
Designs for prosthetic limbs are now more advanced because of ongoing research by the Department of Defense (DOD) in order to assist service members that have been wounded. This advancement in the technology has provided new opportunities for people who have lost limbs, but it has become more expensive. Most high tech prosthetic limbs cost as much as $30,000 according to advocates.