U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ staff and Rep. Bill Pascrell of New Jersey have teamed up to close any “treatment gap” for those with traumatic brain injury (TBI) to be covered by the federal Affordable Care Act.
Giffords, a Democrat serving the 8th District in Arizona, was shot in the head in January and has been undergoing rehab for her devastaing brain injuries ever since. Pascrell, a Democrat representing the 8th District in New Jersey, is an advocate for making TBI be covered under President Barack Obama’s health care reform. Pascrell is also co-founder and co-chair of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.
On Tuesday Pascrell held a press conference at the Kessler Institute in West Orange, N.J., lamenting the fact that TBI victims across the nation are being denied access to medical treatments that could change their lives, according to The Star-Ledger of Newark. That paper’s story was headlined “Rep. Pascrell:Ensure care for brain damage.”
Earlier in the month, on Oct. 7, Pascrell issued a press release applauding the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) recommendations regarding treatment that should be available for people who sustain brain injuries.
The IOM had recommended that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services make its definition of medical necessity under its essential health benefits regulations “be flexible and take into account medical services that produce incremental health benefits even if there are added costs,” according to Pascrell’s press release.
That recommendation followed efforts in April by Pascrell and Giffords’ staff of to urge Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to ensure that all Americans with traumatic brain injury have access to quality, affordable care through the Affordable Care Act.
“This is a major step forward toward closing the co-called treatment gap among people who sustain a brain injury,” Pascrell said in his press release in early October. “Whether we are talking about soldiers on the battlefield, children on the ball field, or any other American, people with brain injuries deserve the best possible chances to get better and resume their lives. That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about. That’s one of the many lessons we have all learned from the bravery of Congresswoman Giffords this year. I want to thank her and her staff for their commitment to this work on behalf of all Americans. I look forward to continuing the effort until this benefit becomes the law of the land.”
One of Pascrell’s statements on the House floor was cited in the IOM report.
Pascrell has argued that necessary medical services aren’t merely to cure disease, but for any patients needing rehab care, should also include “items and services used to restore functional capacity, minimize limitations on physical and cognitive functions, and maintain or prevent deterioration of functioning.”