Cost of amputating a leg? At least $20,000. Cost of an artificial leg? More than $50,000 for the most high-tech models. Cost of an amputee's rehab? Often tens of thousands of dollars more.
These are just a fraction of the medical expenses victims of the Boston Marathon bombing will face.
Friends and strangers already are setting up fundraisers and online crowdfunding sites, and a huge Boston city fund has already collected more than $23 million in donations.
No one knows if those donations — plus health insurance, hospital charity funds and other sources — will be enough to cover the bills. Few will even hazard a guess as to what the total medical bill will be for a tragedy that killed three and wounded more than 270. At least 15 people lost limbs, while others suffered head or tissue wounds.
Health insurance does not always cover all costs. In the case of artificial limbs, for example, some insurance companies pay for a basic model but not a computerized one with lifelike joints.
Rose Bissonnette, founder of the New England Amputee Association, said that the moment she heard about the bombings, she knew immediately that her organization's services would be needed. The advocacy group helps amputees navigate things such as insurance coverage for artificial limbs.
Bissonnette shared one group member's struggle to get coverage for artificial arms as an example of the red tape some bombing victims could face. The woman “got a call from the insurance company and the person on the other end said, ‘How long are you going to need the prosthetic hands?'” Bissonnette recalled.
How much will it cost?
Health economist Ted Miller noted that treating just one traumatic brain injury can cost millions of dollars, and at least one survivor has that kind of injury. He also pointed out that the medical costs will include treating anxiety and post-traumatic stress — “an issue for a whole lot more people than just people who suffered physical injuries,” he said.
Adding to the tragedy's toll will be lost wages for those unable to work, including two Massachusetts brothers who each lost a leg, Miller said. They had been roofers but may have to find new careers.
Many survivors will also need help with expenses beyond immediate health care, including things like modifying cars or homes to accommodate disabilities.
Many survivors live in Massachusetts, a state that requires residents to have health insurance, “which should cover most of their required treatment,” said Amie Breton, spokeswoman for Massachusetts' consumer affairs office.
Amputees may face the steepest costs, and artificial legs are the costliest. They range from about $7,200 for a basic below-the-knee model to as much as $90,000 for a high-tech computerized full leg, said Dr. Terrence Sheehan, chief medical officer for Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital in Rockville, Md., and medical director of the Amputee Coalition.
Massachusetts is among about 20 states that require health insurers to pay for prosthetic limbs, but many plans don't cover 100 percent, Sheehan said. Some insurers may be willing to make exceptions for the Boston blast survivors.