CMS Pulls Funding From Two Transplant Centers
CMS on Tuesday sent letters notifying two heart transplant centers that the agency will withhold Medicare funding from their programs for not meeting the minimum federal standard of performing 12 transplants per year, the Los Angeles Times reports (Weber/Ornstein, Los Angeles Times, 11/29).
In June, the Times reported that an investigation found 20% of the 236 federally funded heart, liver and lung transplant programs do not meet minimum CMS standards for the number of procedures performed and survival rates. Nine lung transplant programs and 36 heart transplant programs did not meet CMS standards, and those programs accounted for 71 more deaths within one year than expected under normal conditions, based on a government analysis of survival rates.
CMS has the authority to revoke the certification of transplant programs that fail to meet agency standards. In August, CMS began to issue warning letters to about 35 transplant programs that have failed to meet agency standards and requested that the centers make improvements before action was taken (California Healthline, 8/4).
On Tuesday, CMS notified the heart transplant programs at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, which performed two transplants in 2005, and Montefiore Medical Center, which performed no transplants, that they will no longer receive Medicare funding.
A third program at St. Louis University Hospital, which also performed no transplants last year, voluntarily relinquished its Medicare funding after receiving a warning.
CMS Chief Medical Officer Barry Straube said, "It might be possible that people were not taking this seriously enough and thinking that we would not take this action." The centers have 30 days to challenge the withdrawals (Los Angeles Times, 11/29).