Should Insurance Companies Be Required by Law to Cover Prophylactic Surgeries?

Prophylactic surgeries are medical procedures performed to prevent the development of a disease or condition. These surgeries involve removing healthy tissue or organs to reduce the risk of future health problems. Some common examples of prophylactic surgeries include mastectomies for women at high risk of breast cancer, prophylactic hysterectomies for women with a family history of ovarian cancer, and colonoscopies for individuals with a family history of colorectal cancer. Insurance companies often deny coverage for prophylactic surgeries, arguing that these procedures are not medically necessary and are therefore not covered by their policies. This can leave patients facing significant financial burdens, as these surgeries can be costly. In recent years, there has been a growing movement to require insurance companies to cover prophylactic surgeries by law.

Arguments for Requiring Insurance Coverage of Prophylactic Surgeries

1. Preventative care saves lives

Prophylactic surgeries can help prevent the development of serious diseases and conditions, which can save lives. For example, women with a BRCA gene mutation have a significantly higher risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer. For these women, prophylactic mastectomies and hysterectomies can greatly reduce their risk of developing these cancers. By requiring insurance companies to cover these surgeries, more individuals at high risk can access life-saving preventative care.

2. Financial savings

While prophylactic surgeries can be expensive, they can save money in the long run by preventing or delaying the need for more expensive treatments in the future. For instance, the cost of treating advanced breast cancer far exceeds the cost of a prophylactic mastectomy. By covering prophylactic surgeries, insurance companies can help individuals avoid costly treatments down the line, ultimately saving money for both the patients and the insurers.

3. Psychological well-being

Undergoing genetic testing and learning about one’s increased risk of developing a certain disease can take a toll on an individual’s mental health. Knowing that prophylactic surgery is an option and that it will be covered by insurance can provide peace of mind and reduce anxiety for those at high risk. This psychological benefit should not be overlooked when considering the importance of insurance coverage for prophylactic surgeries.

Current Challenges in Insurance Coverage of Prophylactic Surgeries

1. Lack of consistency

One of the main challenges in insurance coverage of prophylactic surgeries is the lack of consistency among insurance companies. Some insurers may cover certain prophylactic procedures while others do not, leading to confusion and frustration for patients. By implementing a legal requirement for insurance companies to cover these surgeries, a standard level of coverage can be established, ensuring equal access to preventative care for all individuals who need it.

2. High out-of-pocket costs

Even when insurance companies do cover prophylactic surgeries, patients may still face high out-of-pocket costs such as deductibles, copayments, and coinsurance. These costs can be prohibitive for many individuals, especially those with lower incomes. By mandating insurance coverage for prophylactic surgeries, policymakers can help alleviate the financial burden on patients and make these life-saving procedures more accessible to those who need them.

3. Limited awareness

Many individuals may not be aware of the option of prophylactic surgeries or the potential benefits they offer. This lack of awareness can prevent people from seeking out these preventative measures and ultimately lead to missed opportunities for early intervention. By requiring insurance companies to cover prophylactic surgeries, more information and resources can be made available to educate the public about the importance of preventative care and the role of insurance coverage in accessing it.

Pros of Requiring Insurance CoverageCons of Not Requiring Insurance Coverage
– Saves lives– Financial burden on patients
– Reduces long-term costs– Health disparities
– Improves psychological well-being– Limited access to preventative care

The Legal and Ethical Considerations

1. Patient autonomy

Requiring insurance companies to cover prophylactic surgeries aligns with the principle of patient autonomy, allowing individuals to make informed decisions about their health without financial barriers. Patients should have the right to choose preventative measures that are recommended by their healthcare providers without being limited by insurance coverage restrictions.

2. Equity in healthcare

Ensuring insurance coverage for prophylactic surgeries promotes equity in healthcare by providing all individuals with equal access to life-saving preventative care. Without this coverage, disparities in health outcomes may persist, particularly among marginalized populations who may already face barriers to accessing quality healthcare services.

3. Legal obligations

From a legal standpoint, mandating insurance coverage for prophylactic surgeries may be seen as fulfilling the duty of insurers to provide essential health benefits to their policyholders. If these surgeries are deemed medically necessary by healthcare professionals, insurance companies should not have the discretion to deny coverage based on cost considerations alone.


In conclusion, requiring insurance companies to cover prophylactic surgeries by law has the potential to save lives, reduce healthcare costs, and improve overall health outcomes for individuals at high risk of developing certain diseases. By addressing the current challenges in insurance coverage of these surgeries and considering the legal and ethical implications, policymakers can take meaningful steps towards ensuring that preventative care is accessible to all who need it. Ultimately, the decision to mandate insurance coverage for prophylactic surgeries is not just a matter of financial policy but a reflection of our values as a society in prioritizing the health and well-being of our citizens.

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