But that may be changing…
Wounded Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is benefiting from world-class treatment in Houston that most Americans don’t have access to, and her office knows it.
Her staff on Thursday called on Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to change that, asking her to apply the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in a way that would make similar coverage to what Giffords receives more accessible.
Sebelius and her staff will be defining an “essential benefits” package that insurers participating in insurance exchanges will be required to provide by 2014.
Federal workers’ benefits
Giffords currently benefits from broad coverage through federal workers compensation because she was shot in the head Jan. 8 while meeting with constituents in Tucson, Ariz. The type of acute rehabilitation she receives – involving speech, occupational and physical rehab – costs about $8,000 a day, according to the Brain Injury Association of America. Post-acute rehabilitation can range in cost from $600 to $2,500 daily. The expenses leave the treatment options well out of reach for most patients whose insurers won’t pay for the services.
While some insurers cover traumatic brain injury treatment, their limits on some rehab services often leave patients stagnant at times when they could be rapidly recovering, advocates say.
The benefit to Giffords from those services have been clear in recent months, said Pia Carusone, the Arizona congresswoman’s chief of staff.
“I’ve got an up-close-and-personal understanding now of how speech and physical and occupational rehab really makes a difference, and I just can’t imagine a patient in a similar position who wouldn’t be able to receive the care because an insurance company would argue that it’s not needed,” Carusone said.
While it is discouraging to think about the state of how things are, still, it’s encouraging that people in positions to make a difference are actually speaking up.
If only these kinds of changes could happen without someone getting shot in the head.