Full Speed Ahead in the Fight for Parity

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By Morgan Sheets

Over the past couple of years, the Amputee Coalition of Americas (ACA) advocacy department has built a national campaign from the ground up, lobbied lawmakers, created resources, and provided day-to-day technical assistance for each of the state bills.

We are currently advancing prosthetic parity in more than 30 states. There are seven laws on the books (Colorado, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, California, Massachusetts, and California), and we are putting the final touches on the language for a federal parity bill to be introduced in Congress in 2008. We could not have made such great strides in such a short period of time without the hard work of activists all over the country.

Albertha Jackson-Smith is one of those tireless activists. She is part of the small but hearty group of volunteers who is pushing for a bill in the Maryland legislature. Jackson-Smith was inspired by her son, Lorenzo Smith, who lost his leg after a car speeding on the wrong side of the road veered onto the sidewalk and struck him on his way home from middle school. Because of restrictions on his health insurance coverage, doctors estimate that his parents will spend an average of $15,000 or more per year for the next seven to ten years in order to provide him with prosthetic care.

He is just one example of the thousands of young amputees across the United States whose health and quality of life are being impacted by insurance regulations that have restricted or even eliminated coverage for prostheses. We have already seen the difference that parity bills can make in the lives of families like Lorenzo's.

As we celebrate the New Year, we have a lot to look forward to. We just put out a new edition of our advocacy newsletter, and we launched our enhanced online action center with new resources for both state and federal campaigns. We continue to depend on the dedication of our sponsors, our coalition partners, and most important, our hard-working activists.

Morgan Sheets is the national advocacy director for ACAs Action Plan for People with Limb Loss (APPLL) initiative. She can be reached at APPLL@amputee-coalition.org; www.amputee-coalition.org/advocacy/index.htm