Saturday, June 16, 2007

Here I linked to an article in the times that discussed Medicare’s decision not to cover ADR surgery in patients over 60. As it turns out, this is not good news for ANYONE needing ADR, and possibly even fusion. Here’s why.

During my last check up, Theresa mentioned that the pace of their surgery schedule has really slowed as many/most insurance companies are now not paying for the type of surgery I got, that is, ADR combined with a fusion. They’ve narrowed the range of what is covered by adding the stipulation that there can be no other existing conditions, so if a patient needs ONE disc replaced and that’s it, ok. People like me who needed a fusion and a new disc would be shit out of luck. Thank goodness that I got my surgery when I did, as I can’t even think what the outcome might have been if I’d had to wait for even a few more months.

On top of that, I’ve been reading with interest the health care proposals of the three leading democratic presidential candidates (Clinton, Obama, and Edwards). They all seem to include/favor the formation of some kind of “institute” that would research the most effective treatments for the most common (read:expensive) health care issues.

From the NYTimes:
"Along these lines, the three leading Democratic candidates have quietly come up with nearly identical ideas. Deep inside their health care plans, Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama have each called for the creation of a national institute to figure out which kinds of medical care actually work. This institute would sort through the scientific research on, say, spinal fusion and help people understand when it may make sense and when it’s likely to be just another big medical expense that doesn’t solve anything."

As back pain is one of the major health care costs, lumbar fusion and I suppose ADR, though the article didn’t specifically mention it, would be researched for their efficacy. Apparently there are some studies that show that fusion is, in some cases, no more successful in treating back pain than other methods. While this is true, and I'm not advocating that anyone and everyone who requests a spinal fusion should be able to get one, I am afraid that the insurance companies will seize on any study that supports a conclusion that means they don’t have to pay for a procedure. The Times article goes on to state that Medicare and the insurance companies would then use the research to “determine when a procedure or a drug would be covered” (read: they’d use the research to deny coverage).

Of course, this is all just my opinion, and wouldn't it be nice if I were proven wrong, but if there's anything I've learned in the past year or so, it's that insurance companies are pretty predictable when it comes to cutting what they cover and putting more of the insurance premiums we pay into their own pockets.

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