Anesthesia has long been a tool physicians use during colonoscopy to ensure patients' comfort. But recent conversations among insurance providers have brought this traditional means of sedation into question.
Is anesthesia a superfluous luxury during the colonoscopy procedure? At what cost can you measure a patient's comfort?
Insurance providers argue that anesthesia adds $1.1 billion a year to colonoscopy costs. It would cost an extra $8 billion per year if every patient who underwent a colonoscopy or endoscopy procedure received anesthesia.
According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, just 14 percent of people received anesthesia services during colonoscopy in 2003. By 2009, that number had risen to 30 percent.
Recently Highmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, the predominant insurance provider in western Pennsylvania, announced it would no longer pay benefits for monitored anesthesia for average-risk patients who undergo endoscopic procedures. However, fierce objections and resounding backlash from physicians, patients, and lawmakers forced the insurer to reconsider the decision.
This insurance maneuver is not untried. In 2008 Aetna, another major health care company, considered withdrawing benefits for colonoscopy, but decided against it after considering that patients may forego the lifesaving procedure without insurance coverage for it.
Although the debate over the necessity of anesthesia continues, one thing remains constant: colonoscopy is an imperative procedure in the prevention of colon cancer, the most preventable but least prevented cancer, and screening can save countless lives.
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- Research suggests that polyp removal doesn't always signal an elevated colon cancer risk.
- In exciting news, three pilot programs are designed to improve colon cancer screening rates and follow-up care in a community setting.
Image Source: Alex Promios via Wikimedia Commons