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June 25, 2016

Independence Blue Cross first to cover asthma procedure in Pennsylvania

A device-based procedure designed to relieve asthma symptoms in patients is now covered by an insurer in Pennsylvania.

Independence Blue Cross announced Friday it covers bronchial thermoplasty, making the Philadelphia-based insurance company the first in the state to provide coverage.

The procedure was developed to improve symptoms in patients that could not be treated by inhaler and oral medication regimens.

“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 Dr. Don Liss, Vice President of Clinical Programs and Policy at Independence, in a statement. “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.”

A minimally invasive outpatient procedure, bronchial thermoplasty delivers thermal energy to the airway wall to prevent muscle cells from narrowing the airway. The procedure is used to decrease the ability of the airway to constrict, which reduces the frequency and severity of asthma attacks.

“In the right hands, bronchial thermoplasty is a proven and cost-effective treatment that can help improve these patients’ quality of life,” said Dr. Kartik Shenoy, Assistant Professor of Thoracic Medicine and Surgery at Temple University Hospital.

Six other Blue Cross plans nationwide offer bronchial thermoplasty to eligible adults.

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