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Joint Finance Committee holds hearing on access to brain injury treatment

BOSTON – Tuesday, July 9, 2019 – Dr. Ariel Savitz, Brain Injury Program Medical Director at Encompass Health Rehabilitation Hospital of New England, joined three-time Super Bowl champion and a former linebacker for the New England Patriots Ted Johnson and other medical experts and brain injury survivors to testify in support of legislation that would require commercial insurance carriers in the Commonwealth to authorize appropriate rehabilitation following brain injury. The bill, “Improving Lives by Ensuring Access to Brain Injury Treatment” (S.546/H.968) which was heard before the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Financial Services, is co-sponsored by Sen. Harriette L. Chandler and Rep. Kimberly Ferguson.

“I have come as a brain injury medical director, a physician, and a healer to stand up and speak again today for all those that we have failed in Massachusetts because I know we can do better through post- acute cognitive rehabilitation. We are more than 12 years behind Texas' legislature on these issues. It is time to take a stand with me and support this cognitive rehabilitation bill” said Dr. Ariel Savitz, MD., referring to the fact that Texas has already passed similar legislation.

While cognitive rehabilitation services are available in Massachusetts, most private insurance plans fail to cover these medically necessary treatments. As a result, many constituents don’t have access to the appropriate care. S.546/H.968 will require commercial insurance carriers to authorize appropriate rehabilitation following brain injury. Those testifying spoke to how the bill would improve the quality of life for individuals with brain injury, help them return to work, stay in their homes and communities, and reduce reliance on costly long-term care.

“You don’t need to play professional football to get a brain injury – it can happen to anyone,” said Johnson. “The sad truth, though, is that many survivors cannot access medically necessary cognitive rehabilitation services because their insurance does not cover these services. I urge the Legislature to pass S.546/H.968 which would ensure that survivors of brain injuries have access to these critical services.”

Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy (CRT) is an array of treatments that address the cognitive impairments associated with a brain injury, including re-learning life skills. According to an analysis by the Massachusetts Center for Health Information Analysis (CHIA), “requiring coverage for this benefit by fully-insured health plans would result in an average annual increase, over five years, to the typical member’s monthly health insurance premiums of between $0.01 and $0.19”.

Lee Woodruff, wife of ABC News anchor Bob Woodruff who sustained a brain injury in Iraq in 2006 caused by a roadside bomb, and co-founder of the Bob Woodruff foundation, submitted testimony as well: “Cognitive rehabilitation made the critical difference in my husband’s recovery” the statement read. “My husband, and other high profile TBI survivors like Gabby Giffords and Trisha Meili the Central Park Jogger, have been able to return to the life and work that they loved due to early intervention with unlimited cognitive rehabilitation” the statement continued. “The Woodruff Family urges you to pass these important bills and allow everyone in Massachusetts the same chance at their best recovery due to this important and scientifically proven rehabilitation.”

While cognitive rehabilitation services are available in Massachusetts, most private insurance plans fail to cover these medically necessary treatments. As a result, many constituents don’t have access to the appropriate care. S.546/H.968 will require commercial insurance carriers to authorize appropriate rehabilitation following brain injury. Those testifying spoke to how the bill would improve the quality of life for individuals with brain injury, help them return to work, stay in their homes and communities, and reduce reliance on costly long-term care.

According to a 2014 report by the Department of Public Health and the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission, more than 100,000 Massachusetts residents sustain a brain injury every year. Those who survive face a range of life-altering challenges, which can result in loss of work and reliance on costly, long-term supports such as those funded by the State, impacting the survivor, their family, and their communities. These impairments rarely improve without access to specialized brain injury rehabilitation. 

Source: The Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts Communications Dept