Paying for the High Costs of Spinal Cord Injuries

Spinal cord injuries are devastating, not only for the quality-of-life challenges they present but also because of the costs of ongoing medical care. Such care is costly.

According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center (NSCISC), the average annual first-year costs of spinal cord injury treatments range from $322,000 to $985,000, depending on the severity of the injury. Annual medical care costs following that first year range from $40,000 to $170,000, again depending on the extent of the injury. Put another way, the NSCISC estimates the lifetime medical care costs for a 25-year-old who suffers a severe spinal cord injury – termed high tetraplegia -will exceed $4.3 million.

A Colorado woman who became a quadriplegic at age 9 after suffering a gun shot to her neck recently put a spotlight on the costs of medical treatment for spinal cord injuries. Ever since her injury, most of her medical treatment consisted of painkillers, as many as four high-doses per day. The medications did little for her physical or mental state. About nine years ago she explored alternative treatments such as acupuncture, with positive results, both physically and emotionally.

The only real problem with these alternative treatments was their cost, as Medicaid did not cover them. She eventually looked for government help with this issue and, to make a long story short, just a few weeks ago the Colorado legislature approved Medicaid funding for alternative spinal cord treatments.

But that’s just one state. Patients with spinal cord injuries throughout the rest of the country still often struggle to pay expensive healthcare costs – traditional or otherwise.

The top causes of spinal cord injuries in this country are falls, acts of violence, and sports, with motor vehicle accidents being the number one cause. Those who suffer spinal cord injuries face a difficult life. When spinal cord injuries are caused by the negligent actions of others, those deemed responsible should pay for the medical care of their victims.

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