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Maryland : Legislature

Amputees testify for insurance bill

Several amputees testified at legislative hearings in Annapolis yesterday for a bill that would require private health insurance companies to cover the cost of prosthetic devices, such as an artificial leg or eye.

Proponents say that amputees often have to pay thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket expenses for prosthetics or can't afford them because insurers cap benefits or deny coverage.

They noted that Medicare, Medicaid and the Veterans Administration largely cover prosthetics without restrictions, and they mentioned studies showing that the mandate would only add 12 cents to 35 cents to all monthly insurance premiums.

Frank Jennings, 62, of Baltimore testified that his lower leg was amputated because of complications from diabetes, but that he can't afford the co-payment of about $10,000 for a prosthetic. Lorenzo Smith, 14, of Suitland, who lost his leg in a car accident, also testified. He has needed new artificial legs as he has grown, costing thousands of dollars.

So-called "prosthetic parity" laws have been approved in eight states, including New Jersey and California.

Hanger Orthopedic Group Inc., the Bethesda company that distributes and fits braces and artificial limbs, testified in support of the bill, which was heard in Senate and House committees. The Maryland Chamber of Commerce submitted written testimony in opposition, saying the legislation would increase the cost of health insurance.

Laura Smitherman

County leaders seek OK of school funds

County leaders from around Maryland urged the General Assembly yesterday to approve Gov. Martin O'Malley's request for $333 million in school renovation and construction.

The appearance in Annapolis by Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. and other elected officials in the Maryland Association of Counties follows several school tours made by O'Malley in recent weeks to highlight his budget proposal. The Democratic governor set aside $400 million for school construction last year.

Laura Smitherman

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