Friday, February 6, 2009

A trip to Topeka

I went to Topeka, KS today to attend a meeting of the Health Care Commission. This should be mandatory for anyone trying to make sense of how health plans work (or don't) for you. The reason it should be mandatory is because you can see both sides of the problem. On the one hand, the state has X-dollars set aside to provide basic health care to the insured state employees. Given budget cuts and the dismal economic outlook, keeping money in the state coffers to cover health care costs is going to be a challenge. I can appreciate that even more after this meeting. But, let's cut to the chase.

Question: Should the state cover electronic prosthetic components? There was a lot of discussion surrounding this. It boiled down to either removing the electronic exclusion from the contract OR...putting a cap on prosthetics in general. That would have been the kiss of death. What about all those other whacky exclusions like comfort, convenience, etc.? They didn't come up. Some key questions that might give a person insight into the thought process are: Does Medicare and Medicaid cover this? (yes) Are there limits to who might receive such a prosthesis? (no direct answer here - that surprised me because there ARE) Is there an alternative approach, i.e., a limit (cap) on prosthetics? (strong arguments against this approach).

Cut! Rewind....

Prior to this discussion, it turns out that there was a KS Senate bill that required KHPA to conduct a study and determine whether to include bariatric surgery under medical coverage. A Senate bill (SB511) mind you! I don't know whether to stand here slack-jawed or pat myself* on the back for accomplishing the same thing for prosthetic parity without a Senate Bill. I'm not going to dwell on this except to say that there are now two issues concerning the 2010 health care contract - whether to include bariatric surgery and electronic prosthetic components. No decision was made today on either, but, to the credit of KHPA, they are going to convene a technology committee of prosthetists and medical doctors to learn more about prosthetics, how they operate, who needs them and why so they will no longer be in the "dark ages of coverage." (Their words, not mine.) Ultimately, the decision will be that of the Health Care Commission and I expect that decision will be made by May.

I know you might be thinking, "What's taking so long and how is that going to help you?!" Well, it's the government and look at the bright side - we didn't have to have a Senate Bill to get KHPA to do some research and convene a committee to look at fair coverage for amputees. As for me and my wonderful C-leg, it's probably too little, too late, to do me any good. Still, if we can accomplish prosthetic parity for state employees, then we've built the foundation for state wide parity.

I will say that I feel significantly less crazed, less like I'm trying to paddle up the Missouri river with a fly swatter. That's a good thing.

I'm going to go play some tunes now.

*this includes all of you - the friends, colleagues, senators, representatives and fellow amputees and above all, Dave, for giving up a perfectly good day to sit through a meeting!