Wed, Jul 23, 2014 - Page 3 News List

NHI extended to eye surgery consumables

By Stacy Hsu  /  Staff reporter

A woman holds a model of an eye in Taipei yesterday to promote treatment of age-related macular degeneration, which is to be available through the National Health Insurance program starting on Aug. 1.

Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times

The National Health Insurance (NHI) is to cover surgical consumables used in a number of common eye surgeries starting on Aug. 1, a plan that is expected to benefit 9,200 patients a year, the NHI Administration (NHIA) said yesterday.

NHIA Medical Administration Section Deputy Director Lee Chun-fu (李純馥) said the administration adopted the plan after being inundated with complaints from people suffering from impaired vision due to macular degeneration or diabetic vitreous hemorrhage. Patients with these conditions have to pay between NT$2,800 and NT$34,000 (US$93 to US$1,133) for single-use consumables for eye surgeries, including laser probes, intraocular forceps and scissors.

“Since these devices have become necessities in eye surgeries, such as complicated pars plana vitrectomy, complicated pars plana vitrectomy with reattachment retina with diathermy or cryopexy, and both simple and complicated pars plana vitrectomy with photocoagulation therapy, the administration decided to include them in the NHI coverage to reduce the financial burden on people,” Lee said.

Lee said seven more advanced eye surgeries were also included this time, namely: microincision vitreomacular surgery, simple and complicated microincision vitreoretinal surgery, microincision vitreoretinal surgery combined with scleral buckle, deep anterior lamellar keratoplasty, Descemet’s stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty with precut cornea and Descemet’s stripping automated endothelial keratoplasty.

“Although the new plan is expected to cost the administration NT$177 million a year, patients who opt for the more advanced surgeries would be less susceptible to post-surgery complications and infection, and thus help save the administration more money,” Lee said.

In related news, the NHI is also to cover the newest anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) drug aflibercept starting on Aug. 1, Chang Gung Memorial Hospital ophthalmology department vice chairman Lai Chi-chun (賴旗俊) told a press conference in Taipei.

“Anti-VEGF medication is so far believed to be the most effective treatment for age-related wet macular degeneration, which can lead to rapid vision deterioration and even blindness,” Lai said.

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