What is the Level of Evidence Substantiating Commercial Payers’ Coverage Policies for Total Joint Arthroplasty?

Matthew S. Austin, Blair S. Ashley, Nicholas A. Bedard, Hari P. Bezwada, Charles P. Hannon, Yale A. Fillingham, Yogesh V. Kolwadkar, Harold W. Rees, Matthew J. Grosso, Erik N. Zeegen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Background: The prevalence of total joint arthroplasty (TJA) in the United States has drawn the attention of health care stakeholders. The payers have also used a variety of strategies to regulate the medical necessity of these procedures. The purpose of this study was to examine the level of evidence of the coverage policies being used by commercial payers in the United States. Methods: The references of the coverage policies of four commercial insurance companies were reviewed for type of document, level of evidence, applicability to a TJA population, and success of nonoperative treatment in patients with severe degenerative joint disease. Results: 282 documents were reviewed. 45.8% were primary journal articles, 14.2% were level I or II, 41.2% were applicable to patients who were candidates for TJA, and 9.9% discussed the success of nonoperative treatment in patients who would be candidates for TJA. Conclusion: Most of the references cited by commercial payers are of a lower level of scientific evidence and not applicable to patients considered to be candidates for TJA. This is relatively uniform across the reviewed payers. The dearth of high-quality literature cited by commercial payers reflects the lack of evidence and difficulty in conducting high level studies on the outcomes of nonoperative versus operative treatment for patients with severe, symptomatic osteoarthritis. Patients, surgeons, and payers would all benefit from such studies and we encourage professional societies to strive toward that end through multicenter collaboration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2665-2673.e8
JournalJournal of Arthroplasty
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • commercial payers
  • health care policy
  • level of evidence
  • total joint arthroplasty
  • treatment algorithm


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