Congresswoman’s Staff Renews Call for Funding of Care for Complex Head Injuries

April 22, 2011
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Sometimes it only takes a troubling incident — which is then propelled front and center into the nation’s consciousness — to formulate advocacy. AZ congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s close call with death at the hands of a mentally ill individual is about as high profile a case as an advocate for change can seize to create awareness.

Sometimes it only takes a troubling incident — which is then propelled front and center into the nation’s consciousness — to formulate advocacy. AZ congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’s close call with death at the hands of a mentally ill individual is about as high profile a case as an advocate for change can seize to create awareness.

It’s no surprise, then, that key members of her staff are raising the awareness level of care surrounding traumatic brain injury, or TBI. While this is not a new issue by any means — it has usually been relegated to also-ran status in the eyes of healthcare policy watchers and lawmakers alike, as a by-product of the cost of care to the problem’s biggest cohort, the military veteran — it is getting a new lease on life.

[A] “central component” of Giffords’ therapy regimen is cognitive rehabilitation therapy, a costly medical treatment designed to retrain the brain to do basic tasks. Such treatment … may be available to Giffords, but it is out of reach for thousands of U.S. troops whose health coverage doesn’t include it. The Pentagon’s health care program, Tricare, has refused to cover it but does cover certain types of therapy — such as speech and occupational therapy — which can be a part of cognitive rehabilitation therapy.

HHS Secretary Sebelius is the initial target of this newfound campaign brought by Giffords’s staffers, as they seek to expand such offerings under the military’s Tricare plan. It’ll be a steep hill to climb; such coverage can average $8000 – $10000 for acute hospital cares/day, and at least $1500 daily in LTC costs outside of that acute care. Adovcates, acknowledging this, will also press current Sec’y of Defense Gates to expand coverage for such services. Good thing Giffords’s office also clarifies that this advocacy is a “first step” as far as cost of delivery is concerned — noting that the range of coverage for comprehensive TBI acute care and rehab would not extend the range of “essential benefits” for servicemembers under Tricare. | LINK

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