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Aetna first to cover MR-guided focused ultrasound for essential tremor

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | April 29, 2021
Alzheimers/Neurology Insurance MRI Ultrasound
Aetna is now covering MR-guided focused ultrasound for treating medication-refractory essential tremor
Aetna has become the first national payor to reimburse providers who perform MR-guided focused ultrasound to treat essential tremor that is resistant to medication.

Essential tremor is a movement disorder that causes uncontrollable shaking and is estimated to affect 10 million Americans. While available, medications are unable to help many. Focused ultrasound performed in a single, outpatient procedure, however, can, with many patients showing immediate improvement in the tremor of their hand. The procedure is associated with minimal complications, according to Dr. Jeffrey Elias.

"Focused ultrasound technology has come a long way since the initial essential tremor pilot trial," said Elias, the director of stereotactic and functional neurosurgery at the University of Virginia, in a statement. "Today, the clinical community is able to provide strong real-world evidence in support of coverage decisions."

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Insightec, developer of the Exablate Neuro platform for treating Essential Tremor patients, also welcomed the news. "This is a huge step in expanding patient access to non-Medicare patients. We applaud leading insurers like Aetna for their decision to cover this outpatient treatment for patients suffering from essential tremor,” said Dee Kolanek, Insightec vice president of reimbursement.

Focused ultrasound treatment for medication-refractory essential tremor is covered under Medicare in all 50 states as well as under 30 independent Blue Cross Blue Shield Association plans and by nine private payers.

Aetna said it could not respond in time for comment.

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