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Insurer Backs Off Colonoscopy Plan
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Health insurer Aetna has backed down on a proposal not to cover physician-monitored anesthesia during colonoscopy procedures. The Hartford company says the change may only be delayed.

Aetna announced in December that it planned to stop covering the services of an anesthesiologist during colonoscopies, saying mild sedation was adequate, and didn’t require the oversight of a second physician, something that can make the procedure significantly more costly. That policy was due to take effect April 1st, but Aetna has bowed to pressure from doctors in Connecticut, New Jersey and elsewhere who said fears over the unavailability of deeper anesthesia may lead patients to opt not to have cancer screenings.

Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the US. Aetna conceded that there was a possibility that the rate of cancer check-ups could go down, but says the reversal of its policy will continue to be reviewed. New sedatives and new medical devices to deliver and monitor sedation are in the pipeline, and the insurer says once they’re on the market, the time may be right to end cover for anesthesiologists’ services.