New Jersey Becomes State No. 8

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By Morgan Sheets

At 8:45 p.m. on the last day of the legislative session, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill ensuring access to comprehensive coverage for orthotic and prosthetic care. Sponsored by Senator Nia Gill, Senate Bill 502 mandates that insurance plans offer coverage for orthotic and prosthetic care without caps and co-pays that restrict access to prescribed devices. The Assembly version (A1011) was sponsored by Assemblyman Neil Cohen. The bill was signed by Governor Jon Corzine on January 15.

A report put out by NovaRest Consulting at the request of the New Jersey Mandated Health Benefits Advisory Commission found that prosthetic provision would cost only about 25 cents per $1,000 of premium. The report states that there may be reduced mental healthcare and disability costs due to the successful impact of the prosthesis.

Parity legislation was originally introduced in New Jersey in 2004, but the bill never left committee. With a strong campaign of activists, coalition partners, and the backing of the Amputee Coalition of America (ACA), the bill was reintroduced in 2006. The Assembly version passed out of the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee in June of 2006.

The ACA held a successful event at the capital the following May leading up to a hearing with the Senate Commerce Committee. The bill passed with an amendment that would also extend and ensure coverage for government employees covered by the New Jersey State Health Benefits Program (SHBP). It was referred to the Budget and Appropriations Committee (SBA), which recommended passage of the bill in a hearing in December.

New Jersey now joins Colorado, New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, California, and Oregon in protecting access to prosthetic care. The ACA hopes that this new law will help create momentum for its national campaign. The ACA is also pushing for a bill in Congress to extend protections to plans that are regulated by the federal government and ensure access to care in every state.

Morgan Sheets is the national advocacy director for ACA's Action Plan for People with Limb Loss (APPLL) initiative. She can be reached at  APPLL@amputee-coalition.org. For more information, visit  www.amputee-coalition.org/advocacy/index.html