Aetna takes back colonoscopy cuts

Responding to a storm of criticism, Aetna has agreed to suspend its plan to stop paying for use of a strong anesthetic during colonoscopies. Aetna had announced that it would no longer pay for routine use of the drug propofol, which often is administered by an anesthesiologist. The health plan had said that it objected to the additional $300 to $1,000 needed for an anesthesiologist in the procedure, given that they didn't believe it improved outcomes. Critics, meanwhile, said that limiting propofol use would discourage patients from undergoing colonoscopies.

Aetna may have given way for now, but it hasn't given up its scrutiny of colonoscopies. It has said that it expects the FDA to approve new devices or drugs--such as a computer-assisted sedation device--as early as this summer, which will allow propofol to be administered without an anesthesiologist present. At that point it plans to rethink its colonoscopy coverage.

To learn more about Aetna's change of heart:
- read this piece in The New York Times

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