UnitedHealth Group, which is the largest health insurance company in the U.S., has announced new rules for hysterectomy coverage.
Hysterectomy involves surgical removal of the uterus and may sometimes also involve removal of the fallopian tubes, cervix and ovaries. Around 500,000 hysterectomies are performed each year in the U.S., which makes the medical procedure one of the most common amongst U.S. women. The reasons for hysterectomies range from fibroids, pelvic pain or endometriosis.
Recently, UnitedHealth announced tighter coverage rules for hysterectomies procedures. The health insurers reveal that from Apr. 6 this year, healthcare professionals and facilities will have to inform the company in advance before performing certain hysterectomies. UnitedHealth has also revealed that it will not approve the procedure if believed medically unnecessary.
Market observers believe that UnitedHealth's tighter coverage rules are mainly a result of the problems that arise from a tool called laparoscopic power morcellators, which is often used for hysterectomies. The device was previously linked for the spread of undiagnosed cancer cells in patients.
In April 2014, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also released a statement that discouraged the use of morcellators for a hysterectomy procedure.
"The FDA's primary concern as we consider the continued use of these devices is the safety and well-being of patients," said William Maisel, deputy director for science and chief scientist at the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health. "There is no reliable way to determine if a uterine fibroid is cancerous prior to removal."
FDA also suggested that patients should discuss the benefits and the risks involved with the use of morcellators for hysterectomies with their doctors.
UnitedHealth also revealed that the new coverage rules do not apply to vaginal hysterectomies, a procedure when the uterus is removed via the vagina. Vaginal hysterectomies are normally conducted on an outpatient basis.
The FDA also recommends vaginal hysterectomy in comparison to abdominal or laparoscopic hysterectomies. The FDA suggests that vaginal hysterectomy involves fewer complications and also yields better results.
However, many doctors prefer laparoscopic, which is less invasive and requires a small incision in comparison to abdominal hysterectomies. The recovery time following an abdominal hysterectomy is longer when compared to laparoscopic hysterectomies.