It's the stuff of science-fiction books — or, at least, of television "bionic man" fare. But researchers say they now have the technology to let paraplegics walk. The only problem is, they're not sure how market-friendly they can make it because of "Obamacare" mandates.
Ryan Ferris, a leading researcher for the battery-powered exoskeleton technology said on Fox News on Monday morning that "every aspect was designed to promote independence." And the news broadcast included a video of a man who lost the use of his legs after a 12-foot fall and hadn't walked since, wearing the robotic equipment and taking steps.
But the fate of the equipment, estimated to cost about $60,000, hangs in the Obamacare balance.
It could hit the market in less than a year, Fox News reports. Researchers aren't sure insurance will pay for it, however. And even if insurance pays for it, the device tax included in Obamacare could drive up prices considerably.
"That doesn't make sense to us," one official said to Fox News about the additional taxes and costs that could come to the exoskeleton technology. "You don't want to do anything that will slow down commercialization of a product like this."
The equipment includes braces for the legs and a device that affixes to the torso.
"It's really a lot like a legged Segway," said Michael Goldfarb, an engineer at Vanderbilt University who heads the exoskeleton project there, in a NPR report from last year. "You lean forward to walk forward, lean less forward and cause it to stop, lean back and cause it to sit."
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