Are Varicose Veins an Issue?
Varicose veins are large veins on the legs and feet that are swollen and raised above the skin’s surface. They appear ropey and twisted and can vary in colour from purple to blue. Haemorrhoids and spider veins are types of varicose veins.
These abnormal veins are a result of faulty valves that cause blood to pool and the vein to protrude. One of the main causes of varicose veins is genetics but they can also result from standing for long periods of time, a poor diet, obesity, pregnancy, old age and lack of exercise. However, contrary to popular belief, crossing your legs does not produce varicose veins. They can affect men and women of any age but are more common in women, particularly during childbearing years.
For most people there are no symptoms but others can experience swelling, pain, pigmentation, ulceration and eczema and there is the risk of developing complications if the veins are left untreated. There are various self-care measures that include losing weight, exercising, raising legs while resting, wearing loose clothing and avoiding long periods of standing. Wearing compression stockings can help to ease the pain and may help prevent varicose veins from getting worse but it doesn’t treat them.
One of the most popular methods of medical treatment is sclerotherapy. It’s a minimally invasive and effective method of removing varicose and spider veins. A solution is injected into the veins and this causes them to close. Blood is then rerouted to healthy veins and eventually the varicose veins disappear. Vein stripping is an invasive surgery where a long vein is removed. In radio frequency ablation the veins are treated with heat, while laser surgery uses bursts of light. Both treatments cause the diseased veins to seal shut and blood flows through alternative healthy veins.
For many people these unsightly veins are fundamentally a cosmetic problem and for this reason many medical aids do not cover treatment. However, some people can develop serious complications if the veins are left untreated. When a condition is considered chronic, South African medical schemes are forced by law to provide Prescribed Minimum Benefits (PMBs). . Before you undergo any procedure it’s essential to check with your specific medical scheme to see the extent of their cover for varicose vein treatment.
We asked some medical aids if they cover varicose vein treatment or not.
Varicose vein surgery is a major medical benefit that includes hospital admission but pre-authorisation is required from the Hospital Benefit Management, except in an emergency. Members on the Primary, BonSave and BonEssential Plans can have this procedure done but it’s a deductible, with the member paying a preset amount.
- Primary – Reimbursement rate is 100% of the Bonitas rate
- BonSave – Reimbursement rate is 150% of the Bonitas rate
- BonEssential – Reimbursement rate is 100% of the Bonitas rate
There is a co-payment plan for varicose vein procedures in hospital or a day clinic where the member needs to pay upfront for a portion of the cost before the procedure will be performed. This co-payment is per event and is applicable on the hospital/facility bill only. This applies to members that are part of the following plans:
- Maxima Entryzone
- Maxima Core
Hospitalisation for varicose vein surgery requires compulsory pre-authorisation but it is a major medical benefit and the surgery is covered 100% up to a set limit for each package and according to the medical aid tariff structure. State and private hospitals admissions are allowed. On discharge, the medicine is also covered 100% according to the tariff structure. Prescribed Minimum Benefits apply for the following plans:
- Essence Option
- Equilibrium Option
- Silver Option
The co-payment plan on this medical scheme covers varicose vein surgery but it is subject to the member’s overall annual limit. This procedure is available to these packages:
- Premium Plus
- 80% Plan
- Core Plus
This medical aid has a co-payment plan where members are responsible for a percentage of the costs of the procedure. The compression stockings for varicose veins are included if they are prescribed by a registered healthcare practitioner and obtained from a registered supplier. On the Foundation Option it is not available as an elective procedure and only PMB status will apply. It is available as a co-payment on these plans:
- Supreme Option
- Millennium Option
- Classic Option
- Progressive Flex Option
- Hospital Option