Back in July I test drove new devices to see if they would work for me. The Bioness L300 Go are electrical stimulation (FES) foot drop and thigh weakness devices that provide freedom and independence for people recovering from Stroke, Multiple, Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, Traumatic Brain Injury, or Incomplete Spinal Cord Injury. The good news was that they worked, but the bad news was that they are costly, and insurance does not cover them. We submitted the claim to our health insurance provider, and we received the denial stating that these devices are not considered a medical necessity. Why is it that devices and/or procedures that can and will improve the quality of life of the patient are considered “not medically” necessary?
This creates a difficult decision of finding a way to pay for the devices at the cost of $5530 each ($11,060 total for both legs) or just doing without knowing that these devices can mean the difference between regaining more independence by improving and rebuilding neuropathways and proprioception. In speaking to the representatives from Bioness, most patients are left in my situation of having to pay for the devices themselves or giving up on their dream of walking with better stability, control, and better overall body posture.
The L300 made walking easy and light not heavy and stiff like it is normally. It senses when my foot and leg are getting ready to push off and move forward. The sensor sends an electrical signal to my foot/ankle causing the device to activate and lift my ankle thereby flexing the foot and lifting the ankle and toes preventing the foot from dragging. Because of the SCI (Spinal Cord Injury) I also lost proprioception along with balance. The signals that go from my lower extremities to my brain and back are interrupted because of the damage to my spinal cord. In order to regain more stability my body must rebuild and create new neuropathways. This where these devices can help. As the devices send the signals to my legs, my brain and body engage via the new neuropathways being developed. Over time these new signals turn into sustained signals allowing the body to adapt and rebuild balance and proprioception. They also allow for better posture and body mechanics as the patient is not hunched over a walker, the hips and thigh muscles are more engaged allowing the legs to do their job reducing the stress on the knees and ankles.
The cost of these devices makes them out of reach for most patients as they are not covered by insurance. There are alternatives such as financing them or paying for them via credit cards. I believe that more patients should have the opportunity to obtain such devices, but until these devices become more affordable or insurance companies start recognizing these devices are “medically necessary” they will remain out of reach for most patients. As for me, my family and I have decided to order my devices and appeal the decision of our insurance company. We know that the likelihood of getting reimbursed is next to none, but the benefits of using the devices far outweighs the cost.
Once I receive my devices I will move on to the next step. I will meet with a representative from Bioness where my devices will be fitted, tested, and set up. I will be taught how to work the devices, how to care for them and charge them. I will also return to physical therapy for about 8 sessions working with the devices making sure that they are set to the right frequency and intensity so that I gain the best possible outcome.
It is my hope that over time I will improve to the point where I will not longer need any devices. But for now, I will continue to keep moving forward, and praying every step of the way. God continues to bless me even through the pain.