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Original article

Vol. 151 No. 1718 (2021)

Insurance coverage policies for reconstructive lymphatic microsurgery procedures in Switzerland

  • Semra Uyulmaz
  • Agnes Fejes
  • Lisanne Grünherz
  • Pietro Giovanoli
  • Nicole Lindenblatt
DOI
https://doi.org/10.4414/smw.2021.20456
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2021;151:w20456
Published
16.05.2021

Abstract

BACKGROUND

Lymphoedema is a progressive and potentially disabling disease. A growing number of studies show promising clinical results after microsurgical reconstruction. However, this treatment is currently not supported by level 1 evidence and insurance coverage is variable.

METHODS

Electronic records of 55 patients with limb lymphoedema, who were eligible for lymphovenous bypass surgery and/or lymphatic tissue transfer in our department from 2017 to 2020, were reviewed. Correspondence between our department and health insurers was analysed. A web-based search and individual telephone interviews were conducted to identify health insurer policies.

RESULTS

We included 42 patients undergoing 46 operations and evaluated the correspondence between our department and nine different health insurers. Overall, reimbursement of costs was approved in 67% (n = 31) of all surgeries and was refused in 33% (n = 15). The mean number of applications for reconsideration sent to insurers was 1.3 ± 0.7. The time between confirmation of the indication and the final decision ranged from 6 to 300 days (mean 50 days). Reimbursement of cost coverage ranged from 0% to 100% depending on the individual insurance company. No insurance company had policies publicly available online and all stated that they determine coverage only when provided with specific patient details on a case-by-case basis.

CONCLUSION

Insurance companies in Switzerland do not have a uniform policy regarding cost coverage for lymphatic surgery procedures. Moreover, the decision process appeared to be rather uniform within the respective insurance company and independent of the individual case. Standardised evaluation criteria including patient reported outcome measures should be developed to underscore the beneficial effects of lymphatic surgery and facilitate insurance coverage.

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