Bill calls for expanded coverage for prosthetics patients in NM

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — If you saw Kyle Stepp and young Callaway Lewis outside taking part in New Mexico’s abundance of recreational activities, you wouldn’t think anything of it.

However, each almost had their mobility taken away from them.

“In October 2020, I was in a downhill mountain biking accident. [Before,] I had a metal implant put in my leg after the bone cancer. Unfortunately, after the mountain bike accident, I had to have my left leg amputated above my knee,” Kyle said.

“In 2021, I think it was, I was in a rock climbing accident. I was up on the Sandias and the rocks slid. I had to be rushed to the hospital and had to have my leg amputated,” Callaway said.

Now, they each rely on different prosthetics to keep them moving, including running blades.

“You can see how these are designed, Callaway and I can experience physical activity like anybody else.”

Prosthetics like theirs and other similar devices aren’t easy to get, due to a lack of insurance coverage and high out-of-pocket costs. Families often don’t see those challenges coming, either.

“In New Mexico, we’re hiking and biking but this can happen to anybody. Disease can happen to anyone and we can all enter the limb loss community in an instant,” said Laura Lewis, Callaway’s mom.

As the New Mexico Legislature convenes for its regular, 60-day session, the “So New Mexicans Can Move Act” will be making its way to the House floor.

“In New Mexico, with this bill, what we’re ensuring is that we create an equitable form of care for all New Mexicans so we can empower them and protect all New Mexicans who unfortunately had to experience limb loss or limb difference,” Kyle explained. “The second part of this bill, which is really exciting, is that our goal is to become the first state in the country to provide coverage for prosthetics for physical activity. Because, unfortunately, insurance says that physical activity is not medically necessary.”

Rep. Liz Thomson and Rep.-Elect Kathleen Cates are the bill’s sponsors. They expect to introduce the bill next week.

Although the bill only impacts limb loss and limb difference, the sponsors believe the investment will save the state money. They say it’ll help with addressing health issues caused by a lack of mobility and poor-fitting prosthetics.

“Currently, orthotics or prosthetics that are purchased at the most basic level can only be done at certain times. They are ill-fitting, but young people are constantly growing, causing injury. They’re so basic to where you can’t be active, you can’t run. which impedes employment which is another accessibility issue,” Rep.-Elect Cates explained.

“It’s about quality of life and being able to move and being healthy,” Rep. Thomson emphasized.

The group “So New Mexicans Can Move” is asking for advocates to join their cause. Click here to fill out the form and get in touch with the group.