Last month, the Department of Veterans Affairs agreed to pay for robotic legs designed to give paralyzed veterans the ability to walk again. The technology involved is mind-blowing, and today I’d like to highlight the company behind it all: ReWalk Robotics (RWLK), a medical device company that designs, develops and commercializes exoskeletons for wheelchair-bound individuals.
Veterans Affairs is teaming up with ReWalk to help distribute the exoskeletons to eligible veterans, marking the first time in U.S. history that federal coverage policy has included robotic augmentation. One of the biggest speed bumps ReWalk had to overcome was getting reimbursement for the product. While the company has had some success in getting private companies to help cover the cost, Veterans Affairs has opened the door to dozens more paraplegics who could benefit from the device.
I had Gene Laureano, a paralyzed army veteran who is utilizing the new technology, and Tom Coulter, a service engineer at ReWalk, as guests on my show Making Money with Charles Payne to help explain how the exoskeleton works. They showed me that this isn’t just the stuff of science fiction—the technology is very real, and has the potential to dramatically improve the lives of patients nationwide.
I’ll admit the robotic legs are still a bit clunky, with a large backpack strapped around the user’s waist. But despite his spinal cord injury from a ladder fall years ago, Gene was able to walk with his own two feet across my set. It’s really a miracle, and all it took was the push of a button on Gene’s watch to activate “walk mode.” The tilt sensor on the side of the exoskeleton only allows the legs to walk when the user leans forward, which simulates natural movement and helps the user to maintain control.
On the business side of things, ReWalk has hit a few roadblocks getting its product into mainstream circulation due to limited funding. The Veteran Affairs’ announcement sent the stock up into the stratosphere at the end of December, but otherwise investors haven’t paid much attention to the company’s earnings improvements over the last quarter, which is why its share price is pretty poor compared to a year ago (down over 40%)
I think the story is beginning to change though, as the recent approval by Veterans Affairs should allow the company to place about 45 more units at a price of $3.5 million.
The move is also a step toward getting insurance companies to cover the cost of the devices, which could expand use of the technology and cement ReWalk as a major player in this very small playing field.
As the only company with a medical exoskeleton cleared by the FDA for personal use, ReWalk already has an advantage on its competitors and could see some significant cash flow as exoskeletons start to gain traction in healthcare services.
I know ReWalk is a for-profit company, but they’re doing great work by reaching a hand out to veterans. This is the definition of ingenuity and capitalism.
This is what America is all about.
More From InvestorPlace
- 5 Defense Stocks to Buy to Safeguard Your Portfolio
- 5 Stocks to Buy for January
- 5 Tech Stocks That Suddenly Look a LOT Sweeter