BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Medical Policy Manual

Breast Reconstructive and Symmetry Surgery Following Mastectomy


Reconstructive breast surgery is defined as a surgical procedure designed to restore the normal appearance of the breast after surgery, accidental injury or trauma. Breast reconstruction is distinguished from cosmetic procedures by the presence of a medical condition, e.g., breast cancer, which leads to the need for breast reconstruction. On some occasions, surgery is performed on the contralateral, normal breast to achieve symmetry.



Federal Mandate

The Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 (WHCRA) is a federal law that provides protection to individuals who choose to have breast reconstruction in connection with a mastectomy.

According to the WHCRA, coverage must be provided for:

This law applies to two different types of coverage if the health plan covers medical and surgical costs associated with a mastectomy:

  1. Group health plans (provided by an employer or union);

  2. Individual health insurance policies (not based on employment).

2005 Amendment to the Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act of 1998 (WHCRA):

This Act may be cited as the ”Women's Health and Cancer Rights Conforming Amendments of 2005”

In General--A group health plan that provides medical and surgical benefits with respect to a mastectomy shall provide, in a case of a participant or beneficiary who is receiving benefits in connection with a mastectomy and who elects breast reconstruction in connection with such mastectomy, coverage for--

(1) All stages of reconstruction of the breast on which the mastectomy has been performed

(2) Surgery and reconstruction of the other breast to produce a symmetrical appearance

(3) Prostheses and physical complications of mastectomy, including lymphedemas in a manner determined in consultation with the attending physician and the patient deemed appropriate and as are consistent with those established for other benefits under the plan. Written notice of the availability of such coverage shall be delivered to the participant upon enrollment and annually thereafter.

Tennessee State Mandate

The provisions of this mandate concerning reconstructive breast surgery. Tennessee Code Annotated, Title 56, Chapter 7, Part 2507 read as follows:

(1) Any individual, franchise, blanket or group health insurance policy, medical service plan, contract, hospital service corporation contract, hospital and medical service corporation contract, fraternal benefit society, health maintenance organization, or managed care organization that provides coverage for mastectomy surgery shall provide coverage for all stages of reconstructive breast surgery on the diseased breast as a result of a mastectomy, but not including a lumpectomy, as well as any surgical procedure on the nondiseased breast deemed necessary to establish symmetry between the two (2) breasts in the manner chosen by the patient and physician. The surgical procedure performed on a nondiseased breast to establish symmetry with the diseased breast must occur within five (5) years of the date the reconstructive breast surgery was performed on a diseased breast.



Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. (1998). The Women's Health and Cancer Rights Act. Retrieved June 1, 2012 from

Congressional Bills 109th Congress 1st Session H. R. 437. Women's Health and Cancer Rights Conforming Amendments of 2005. Retrieved February 12, 2020 from

Tennessee Code: Title 56 Insurance: Chapter 7 Policies and Policyholders: Part 25-Mandated Insurer or Plan Options: 56-7-2507. Reconstructive breast surgery. Retrieved February 12, 2020 from




Policies included in the Medical Policy Manual are not intended to certify coverage availability. They are medical determinations about a particular technology, service, drug, etc. While a policy or technology may be medically necessary, it could be excluded in a member's benefit plan. Please check with the appropriate claims department to determine if the service in question is a covered service under a particular benefit plan. Use of the Medical Policy Manual is not intended to replace independent medical judgment for treatment of individuals. The content on this Web site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice in any way. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider if you have questions regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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