Even more, text-to-speech and icon based programs are available for laptops and, get this, the iPhone/iPod-touch.
Imagine a device that not only helps with communication, but can be surf the web and play games and videos and music and do even more. Imagine a device that has a “cool factor”. Imagine a device that fits in your pocket.
Can you imagine it? Well, it seems insurance companies can’t.
You see, if it can do something in addition to speech, it isn’t covered. If it hasn’t been approved yet, it isn’t isn’t covered. And, let’s face it, insurance companies aren’t that fast at approving new technology.
The funny thing is, this could save them money.
“We would not cover the iPhones and netbooks with speech-generating software capabilities because they are useful in the absence of an illness or injury,” said Peter Ashkenaz, a spokesman for the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Private insurers tend to follow the government’s lead in matters of coverage. Two years ago, iPhones and netbooks barely existed, so it may not be surprising that the industry has yet to consider their role as medical devices.
A dynavox system costs about $8,000. An system based on an iPod touch can be under $400 plus external speakers (I don’t think the speakers on the iPod touch would be loud enough if there is any background noise. But I could be wrong.)
But, remember, insurance companies aren’t paying for the iPod becuase it isn’t tested yet. That and they don’t like devices that do more than one thing. They dislike devices that do more than one task so much that they pay a lot extra ($8,000 vs. $500) and, get this, they turn off the extra features.
DynaVox, a leading maker of devices for the speech-impaired, has computers that start at $8,000 and run Windows, just like 90 percent of all PCs. To meet insurance rules, DynaVox disables the general computing tools. After the insurer pays, customers can pay $50 to DynaVox to reactivate the full functions.
This strikes me as bureaucracy getting in the way. Other devices, which would save the insurance company money, should be easy to test and get approved.
I just don’t get what the hold up is.
Thanks to a very cool reader who pointed me at this story.
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