Thursday, April 5, 2007


I was alerted to the introduction of the Children’s Access to Reconstructive Evaluation and Surgery Act -- or CARES Act -- via this American Society of Plastic Surgeons press release. The legislation was introduced by Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Patrick Tiberi (R-OH). Below is the ASPS release in its entirety. I've bolded the highlights.

ASPS Applauds Introduction of Legislation to Increase Access to Reconstructive Surgery for Children

For Immediate Release: March 23, 2007

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill.—The American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) today announced its support of the Children’s Access to Reconstructive Evaluation and Surgery Act—or CARES Act. This bi-partisan legislation was introduced today in the House of Representatives by Reps. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY) and Patrick Tiberi (R-OH).

In response to an increasing number of insurance companies denying coverage for reconstructive procedures to correct deformities in children, the CARES Act would require insurance companies to provide coverage for the treatment of a child’s congenital or developmental deformity or disorder due to trauma, infection, tumor, or disease. Seven years ago, President George W. Bush signed comparable legislation into law while Governor of Texas.

“The ASPS and Coalition for Coverage of Children’s Deformities believe that a statutory requirement for insurance coverage of children’s deformities is vital to correct the growing problem of insurance companies denying care on the grounds that the care provided is cosmetic in nature,” said Roxanne Guy, MD, ASPS president. “The American Medical Association defines reconstructive surgery as being performed on abnormal structures of the body caused by congenital defects, developmental abnormalities, trauma, infection, tumors or disease. Reconstructive surgery is generally performed to improve function and approximate a normal appearance. The CARES Act identifies the distinction between cosmetic and reconstructive surgery.”

Lauren Mandel, now a teenager, was denied such coverage when she was a little girl. Insurance covered the life threatening procedures for her arterial venus malformation (tumors made of blood vessels) but denied surgery to fix her jaw and teeth, stating it was considered a cosmetic procedure. Lauren finally had the surgery, which was paid for by her parents.

“My daughter deserves that chance as does every child in this country,” said Bernadette LaPoppa, Lauren’s mother. “No family should have to face the obstacles we have faced or experience financial hardship to receive necessary care from the appropriate medical specialist.”

According to the March of Dimes, 3 percent of babies born annually (120,000) suffer from birth defects. A birth defect is an abnormality of structure, function, or body metabolism present at birth that results in physical or mental disabilities or is fatal. Of the 120,000 children born annually with birth defects, approximately 40,000 require reconstructive surgery.

Examples of these deformities include cleft lip, cleft palate, skin lesions, vascular anomalies, malformations of the ear, hand, or foot, and other more profound craniofacial deformities. Although surgeons are able to correct many of these problems, an increasing number of insurance companies are denying access to care by labeling the procedures "cosmetic" or "non-functional" in nature. A survey of ASPS members revealed that nearly 54 percent of respondents indicated they had pediatric patients who have been totally denied insurance coverage, or had experienced significant and deleterious obstacles in obtaining approval for coverage of surgical procedures.

“The CARES Act is common sense legislation that will improve the current delivery system and restore patients’ and families’ trust and confidence in their health plans. Too many American families are being denied access to health care that would prevent long term physical and psychological injuries. The procedures used to treat these children are, by definition, reconstructive, and should be covered by insurance,” said Dr. Guy. “Speaking on behalf of the ASPS membership, we thank the sponsors of this proposed legislation and appreciate their support. As plastic surgeons, we recognize this disparity on a personal level with our young reconstructive patients and their families.”

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