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NetBooks, iPhones, and Other Mobile Devices Helping the Handicapped – But Insurers and Medicare Don’t Cover – They Provide an $8

Posted Sep 14 2009 10:21pm

Ok when we talk about saving some money on healthcare and technology being a solution, wake up folks, this is it.   This is one area that is image somewhat “technology stupid” if you will. The fact that $8000.00 is paid for a device with normal internet surfing and other services disabled is nuts!   We are sure s pending a lot of money to make sure the handicapped individual doesn’t get any other use other than just communication from the computer, right!  Insurers say they are so progressive in this area with technology, well here’s one instance where somebody is asleep behind the wheel, or I should say asleep behind the PC.

At one point in time, yes those expensive devices were it, but not today where a netbook for $400.00 can do the work, or even an iPhone.   How many $8000.00 units have they paid for?  Blue Cross says they need to do a study before they could consider spending less money, although on their venture capital area, they have invested  in wireless tablets for patients to use for data entry in doctor’s lobbies and promote web visits with doctors, what’s up with this?   They want evidence based information, give me a break. 

With Medicare we have the dedicated-device rule and the one-device limit, but even so, why not get that one devices that does many things?   At some point in time some cell phones may need to be approved too by the FDA as they are now companions and reporting information that relates to medications and medical records to go along with patient care and safety.  

Just as one department doesn’t cover all any more and looks at multiple areas, and devices are multipurpose, get over it.   I don’t mean in any way to knock the company that has provided the equipment for years and designed their product to abide by rules and laws set forth, but times are changing where for so much less, you can get more.   The part about denying internet browsing is a hoot too, why keep the patient in the dark and take away the best learning tool in the world because they need a computer to help them communicate with their disability. Why do we need to saddle a child with autism with an $8000.00 computer when a $150.00 iPhone does the trick I ask? 

Somebody needs to take a look at the savings here in this area, I don’t think you will find anyone complaining either by getting less as they are image really getting a lot more, for less.   Anybody in Congress using a Netbook today I wonder?   BD 

SAN FRANCISCO — Kara Lynn has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S., which has attacked the muscles around her mouth and throat, removing her ability to speak. A couple of years ago, she spent more than $8,000 to buy a computer, approved by Medicare, that turns typed words into speech that her family, friends and doctors can hear.

Under government insurance requirements, the maker of the PC, which ran ordinary Microsoft Windows software, had to block any nonspeech functions, like sending e-mail or browsing the Web.

Dismayed by the PC’s limitations and clunky design, Ms. Lynn turned to a $300 iPhone 3G from Apple running $150 text-to-speech software. Ms. Lynn, who is 48 and lives in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., said it worked better and let her “wear her voice” around her neck while snuggling with her 5-year-old son, Aiden, who has Down syndrome.

Medicare and private health insurers decline to cover cheap devices like iPhones and netbook PCs that can help the speech-impaired, despite their usefulness and lower cost.  Instead, public and private insurers insist that, if Ms. Lynn and others like her want insurance to pay, they must spend 10 to 20 times as much for dedicated, proprietary devices that can do far less.

The logic: Insurance is supposed to cover medical devices, and smartphones orimagePCs can be used for nonmedical purposes, like playing video games or Web browsing.   Dr. Stanley E. Harris, who helps set device coverage policies for Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, said that if enough patients requested new types of devices, the insurer would study their usefulness. “We’re looking for evidence-based data to support the effectiveness of whatever is being requested,” he said.

Indeed, the price drops have made it possible for A.L.S. assistance groups to buy dozens of netbooks, install specialized software likeProloquo2Goand lend them to clients.

Betsy Caporale, a speech language pathologist in Danville, Calif., has tested various devices and software with children who have Down syndrome and autism.

“The iPhone has been a runaway success with these kids,” she said. “It takes them about 10 minutes to learn how to use the iPhone, and there is this cool factor for them.”

Insurers Shun Multitasking Speech Devices - NYTimes.com

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