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Medicare/Medicaid to cover some HIV facial fillers

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The agency that makes coverage decisions for Medicare and Medicaid has announced the public health insurers will begin paying to repair facial damage caused by AIDS drugs – like injections to fill out hollowed cheeks. It’s a change one expert calls “a huge decision.”

Allastair Carruthers is a professor of dermatology at the University of British Columbia and a leading researcher in the field – who played a critical role in making the case to officials. He says the problem stems from one of the great ironies of modern HIV drugs.

Carruthers: “The treatment that helped people to be normal and healthy, made them look like hell.”

The medications cause patients to lose most of the normal fat in their faces — leading to deeply hollowed out cheeks and temples. Carruthers says that made patients look older and sicker than they were — sometimes leading to depression. He says some patients even quit their jobs or stopped going out in public.

Carruthers: “And they seriously consider quitting the drugs because they’re so desperate to do something about this.”

Injectible fillers have become available to restore a healthy appearance, but until now Medicare and Medicaid have refused to pay for them. Paying out-of-pocket can cost thousands of dollars.

The Medicare and Medicaid decision comes with some limits. Doctors will have to certify that the facial damage is causing the patient to be depressed. But Carruthers says such depression is “extremely common.”

Dr. Carruthers says it’s probable but not certain that the decision by Medicare and Medicaid may lead private health insurers to begin paying for the treatments as well.

–Tim Curran


Written by OutQ News staff

April 1, 2010 at 1:05 PM

Posted in Health, HIV

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