Independence Blue Cross first insurer in Pennsylvania to cover Bronchial Thermoplasty

Philadelphia – Independence Blue Cross (Independence) is now offering coverage for bronchial thermoplasty, an innovative, device-based procedure that aims to improve symptoms in patients with asthma that are unable to be managed by the most aggressive inhaler and oral medication regimens. This coverage option makes Independence the first health insurer in Pennsylvania and only the seventh Blue Cross plan nationwide to offer bronchial thermoplasty to eligible adults.

“While the vast majority of people living with asthma are effectively managed with medications and by avoiding triggers, there is a very small minority for whom combination medical therapy is not adequate,” said Don Liss, M.D, vice president Clinical Programs and Policy at Independence. “Our coverage policy was developed in close consultation with pulmonary specialists at Philadelphia’s leading university medical centers, to whom these patients are referred when conventional therapy has failed. We collaborated with these experts to establish criteria limiting coverage to those situations where there is strong evidence that bronchial thermoplasty is necessary.”

Delivered by Boston Scientific’s Alair™ System, bronchial thermoplasty is a minimally invasive outpatient procedure that delivers thermal energy to the airway wall in a controlled manner to reduce excessive airway smooth muscle (the muscle cells are known to be the main culprit of airway narrowing). The procedure is designed to decrease the ability of the airway to constrict, reducing the frequency and severity of asthma attacks. The benefits of bronchial thermoplasty have been shown to last for at least five years.

“Independence reviewed the evidence we presented as well as the practical challenges we face when patients are referred to us after failing conventional treatment,” said Kartik Shenoy, M.D., assistant professor of thoracic medicine and surgery at Temple University Hospital. “In the right hands, bronchial thermoplasty is a proven and cost-effective treatment that can help improve these patients’ quality of life.”

Editor’s Note: Neither Independence Blue Cross, Temple University Hospital, Dr. Liss, Dr. Shenoy nor any member of their immediate family has any financial interest in Boston Scientific.

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