Aug. 30--Johns Hopkins University researchers recently provided strong arguments in support of circumcising male infants and backed it up with research.
Pediatric doctors took up the call to encourage parents to choose the procedure while stopping short of advocating it for every infant. That policy deftly navigates the ledge between medical evidence along with cultural and religious norms that support circumcision and objections from some parent groups who regard it as cruel and unnecessary.
Doctors can encourage; parents can choose.
More important, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics officially urged Medicaid and other insurers to pay for the procedure.
Covering circumcision makes sense, the researchers said, in terms of preventing infection.
Johns Hopkins found that circumcision reduces rates of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases. Lack of circumcision adds $313 in future medical expenses for each boy.
Twenty years of falling circumcision rates have cost the country $2 billion in preventable medical costs, according to the research.
"If there were a vaccine that reduced HIV infection, genital herpes and warts, penile cancer, cervical cancer and bacterial vaginosis, it would be promoted as a game-changing intervention, and all physicians would encourage their patients to get it," said Aaron Tobian in Bloomberg news. Tobian is a health epidemiologist and pathologist at Johns Hopkins and senior researcher on the study. "The difference is this is a surgery with very minor complications, and it also has a cultural tone to it."
Virginia'sMedicaid program, which provides health insurance to low-income families, continues to cover circumcision. But 18 states have dropped Medicaid coverage of the procedure.
As with any decision that affects an infant's health, parents must weigh benefits and risks and apply them in the context of what's best for the child. If that decision means circumcision, insurers should cover the cost.
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