Insurance carriers are discontinuing coverage of hysterectomies performed with a morcellator. The action comes in response to a warning issued by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in April 2014 about morcellation and cancer cells being spread in the body.
Laparoscopic power morcellators are bladed-tools that that chop the uterus into tiny fragments to be removed through a small laparoscopic incision. If the uterus contains undetected cancer cells, morcellation could spread and upstage the cancer. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), one in 368 women has undetected uterine cancer that could be spread by morcellation.
Following the study, Ethicon issued a worldwide withdrawal from the market, as opposed to announcing an Ethicon morcellator recall.
Because there has been no official morcellator recall, insurance companies, wanting to protect their subscribers, are ceasing to cover the cost of morcellation hysterectomy procedures.
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Health made the decision to stop reimbursement for morcellation hysterectomies in August 2014 to “protect patient safety.” In addition, Highmark Inc. discontinued reimbursement for the procedure in September 2014, according to Pittsburgh Business Times.
Capital Blue Cross announced on their website that they have determined there is “significant patient safety concern” associated with the use of power morcellators and, effective November 2014, the provider will no longer reimburse procedures involving the device.
Other insurers that are no longer covering morcellation include Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, Harvard Pilgrim and Fallon Health, the Pittsburgh Business Times reported.
Reports of cancer spreading after morcellation have prompted a number of morcellator cancer lawsuits.