Between A Rock And A Hard Place: Some Boston Bombing Victims Face Losing Health Insurance If They Cash Charity Checks


The outpouring of support in the form of charity donations to the victims of last spring’s Boston Marathon bombing was an example of America at its best. As Bruce Springsteen wrote, “We Take Care of Our Own.” But, what has happened to some of those victims in the weeks and months that followed the bombing is an example of America at its worst, and provides evidence that we don’t always “take care of our own.”

Think Progress reports that some unemployed and low income victims of the bombing have literally been given checks that they cannot cash, because in doing so they could potentially lose their ability to get health insurance.

The September 15 edition of The Washington Post tells the story of brothers J.P. and Paul Norden, both of whom lost legs in the attack. Neither has cashed the $1.2 million dollar check each received from the One Fund charity which was set up to aid bombing victims, because of concerns about the amount of money that will be required to purchase and maintain the prosthetic legs that each of them will need for the rest of their lives. J.P. Norden told The Post:

People will say stuff: ‘Oh, you guys got $1.2 million.’ Did we? Because I know I’ve got to buy a leg for the rest of my life. I can’t go out and buy a house.

J.P. Norden was a truck driver before the attack. Paul Norden was a roofer. Neither will be able to return to their previous line of work due to their injuries. While the brothers are grateful for the outpouring of support received from the public, and for the creation of One Fund, they and others believe that Kenneth Feinberg, the lawyer who set up the payment formula for the victims, did not fully think through the payment setup.

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Under Feinberg’s plan, double amputees and the families of those who were killed received $2.2 million each. Single amputees, such as the Norden brothers, received $1.2 million each. Other monies were paid based on the number of nights each victim spent in the hospital or in a skilled nursing/rehabilitation facility.

According to The Post story

Coverage for prosthetics varies from policy to policy, but doctors and prosthetists agree that the lifetime cost of a new limb — especially for Paul Norden — easily could be more than the Norden brothers were awarded. The devices, which wear out, must be replaced every few years and regularly maintained.

In addition, the prosthesis is only part of the medical care that will be required by Boston Marathon bombing victims. Many suffered other serious injuries as well as the loss of a limb or limbs, and those injuries, such as hearing damage caused by the blast, will also require lifelong medical treatment.

Any victim who cashes the check he or she receives from One Fund will not be eligible for Massachusetts Medicaid coverage, and will have to purchase his or her own health insurance. Those who have returned or will return to their previous workplaces or who can find new jobs should have few problems, as many will be able to get health insurance through their employers. But some, like the Norden brothers, whose injuries are too severe to allow them to work, will have few options. They will be able to purchase insurance on one of the soon to open insurance exchanges, but they will not qualify for federal subsidies that will help them pay for it.

We take care of our own?