Ashley Barnes was 35 years old when doctors told her she would never walk again.
A botched spinal procedure in 2014 paralyzed her from the waist down. The Tyler, Tex., resident had been an avid runner, clocking six miles daily when not home with her then-9-year-old autistic son, whom she raised alone. Life in a wheelchair was not an option.
“I needed to be the best mom I could be,” Barnes said. “I needed to be up and moving.”
ReWalk Robotics announced the first ruling by the Social Welfare Court of Speyer which declared the ReWalk exoskeleton system was medically necessary and should be covered by insurance for a patient with spinal cord injury. The ruling, delivered in late July, overturns the original denial of the claim by the payer, a statutory health insurance entity, according to a press release.
The claimant, Philip Hollinger, is a 44-year-old man who sustained a spinal cord injury in a car accident in 2006. The accident left him paralyzed with a T6 level injury.
American insurance providers are being faced with an interesting health care debate: Should walking be considered a need?
At the center of this debate are exoskeletons — motorized devices that allows those with spinal cord injuries to stand upright and walk. So far, the ReWalk system is the only exoskeleton in the United States that has been approved by the FDA. However, it costs close to $70,000.
ReWalk announced that a commercial health plan will provide coverage for a personal exoskeleton system.
Researchers found insurance discontinuation rates were significantly higher for patients with traumatic spinal injuries when compared with healthy patient with no injuries, according to a recently published study.
Using the MarketScan database, the researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study of privately insured spine trauma patients who underwent surgery from 2006 to 2010. The researchers also used Kaplan-Meier survival analysis to assess the time to insurance discontinuation, as well as Cox proportional hazards regression to determine hazard ratios for discontinuation of insurance among patients with spinal trauma compared with matched controls.