Navigating the Insurance Landscape for Coverage of Reduction Mammaplasty

Catherine M.A. Rawes, Ledibabari M. Ngaage, Mimi R. Borrelli, Joseph Puthumana, Sheri Slezak, Yvonne M. Rasko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Reduction mammaplasty provides symptomatic relief to patients with macromastia. Insurance companies act as gatekeepers of health care by determining the medical necessity of surgical procedures, including reduction mammaplasty. The authors sought to evaluate insurance coverage and policy criteria for reduction mammaplasty. Methods: The authors conducted a cross-sectional analysis of U.S. insurance policies on reduction mammaplasty. Insurance providers were selected based on their enrolment data and market share. The authors conducted telephone interviews and Web-based searches to identify the policies. Medical necessity criteria were abstracted from the publicly available policies that offered coverage. Results: The authors reviewed 63 insurers. One in 10 insurers had no established policy for reduction mammaplasty. Of the 48 publicly available policies, shoulder pain and backache were the most common symptoms required for preapproval (98 percent and 98 percent). A minimum resection volume was requested by 88 percent of policies. One-third of policies (31 percent) offered a choice between removal of a minimum weight per breast or a volume based on body surface area. Over half of companies (54 percent) used body surface area calculations to predict minimum resection volume. Medical necessity that extended beyond national recommendations included trial of weight loss (23 percent) and nipple position (10 percent). Conclusions: Insurance policy criteria for reduction mammaplasty are discordant with current national recommendations and current clinical evidence. Many policies use outdated criteria that do not correlate with symptom relief and consequently limit access to reduction mammaplasty. Here, the authors propose a comprehensive guideline to maximize coverage of reduction mammaplasty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)539E-547E
JournalPlastic and reconstructive surgery
StateAccepted/In press - 2020
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery

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