ReWalk Exoskeleton Reluctantly Covered by Insurance Co.

An insurance company's initial denial of coverage for a ReWalk Personal exoskeleton was overturned by an independent medical review organization that deemed the exoskeleton to be medically necessary.

Photo Caption: In December 2015, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will start covering the cost of ReWalk Robotics’ powered exoskeleton for eligible paralyzed veterans, such as Gene Laureano.(Photo Credit: The Associated Press)

An insurance company in the Northwestern United States will reluctantly cover the $69,500 cost of a ReWalk Personal exoskeleton. The announcement comes after an independent medical review organization overturned the health plan’s initial denial of coverage.

After a review of the case and the most up-to-date studies about the clinical benefits of the ReWalk Personal exoskeleton, the medical review organization determined the ReWalk Personal Exoskeleton to be medically necessary for the beneficiary, not an experimental technology. The report states that “powered exoskeletons like the ReWalk provide non-ambulatory individuals with spinal cord injury such as the patient the ability to walk at modest speeds.”

The beneficiary is a surgeon who suffered a spinal cord injury and currently uses a custom wheelchair 11 hours a day at work. The ReWalk Personal exoskeleton will allow the beneficiary to stand up and move around both at work and at home.

“The ruling by the independent medical organization marks an important moment for exoskeletons being accepted as protocol technology for those with spinal cord injury,” says Larry Jasinski, ReWalk CEO. “Health benefit providers have historically been hesitant to acknowledge the clinical benefits in their case assessments. This ruling, and subsequent coverage and reimbursement will help ReWalk in our efforts to facilitate greater patient access to the device.”

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ReWalk and other exoskeleton companies have been working diligently with health coverage providers on individual patient cases and to develop general coverage policies for exoskeletons. And a growing number of health plans are starting to recognize the benefits of exoskeletons. In December 2015, the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will start covering the cost of ReWalk Robotics’ powered exoskeleton for eligible paralyzed veterans.

The VA policy was the first national coverage policy in the US for qualifying individuals who have suffered spinal cord injuries. The policy provides eligible veterans access to referral and evaluation at all designated ReWalk Training Centers across the country.  Eligible veterans will be referred for training on the use of the device, and successful candidates will then be eligible to obtain a ReWalk Personal system.

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“This historic policy will provide access to our life-changing technology for thousands of veterans across America,” Jasinski said of the VA policy. “We want all US veterans with a spinal cord injury to know that they now have a path to securing their own ReWalk Personal exoskeleton system.

ReWalk is the only FDA-cleared exoskeleton for individuals with spinal cord injury. ReWalk has Class II FDA clearances for exoskeleton use in the rehabilitation and personal setting, with the latter intended for home and community use.

About the Author

Steve Crowe · Steve Crowe is managing editor of Robotics Trends. Steve has been writing about technology since 2008. He lives in Belchertown, MA with his wife and daughter.
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