Medicare Will Cover Cardiovascular Rehab Programs
Medicare for the first time has agreed to cover "intensive cardiac rehabilitation plans" created by two physicians -- preventive health expert Dean Ornish and mind-body medicine expert Herbert Benson -- the Los Angeles Times reports. Medicare will guarantee coverage for 36 sessions within an 18-week period, with a possible extension to 72 sessions for 36 weeks.
The final details of how much will be covered are still under negotiation, Ornish said. According to the Times, Ornish and Benson have conducted clinical research demonstrating that comprehensive lifestyle changes -- including support groups; good nutrition and low-fat diets; exercise; and stress management, such as yoga, meditation or deep breathing -- might begin to reverse even severe coronary heart disease without medication or surgery.
Benson's wellness programs -- offered in Indiana, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington and Virginia -- combine stress reduction techniques with nutrition, cognitive restructuring and exercise to lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Patients report fewer symptoms of chest pain, according to the Times.
Ornish's Program for Reversing Heart Disease is offered at eight sites in Pennsylvania and at five medical centers in West Virginia. "The programs of Dr. Ornish and Dr. Benson focus on a prevention model. Now we are going to take even individuals with mild cardiovascular disease and show them how to ameliorate it or reverse it to avoid more serious disease," a CMS spokesperson said (MacGregor, Los Angeles Times, 6/12).
In related news, two newspapers recently published articles related to Medicare. Summaries appear below.
- Medical devices: The public comment period for a proposal that will cut Medicare payments for some medical devices by as much as 30% ends Monday, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports. Under the proposal, Medicare payments to hospitals for drug-coated stents would be cut by more than 30%, payments for implantable cardioverter defibrillators would be cut by 25% and cardiac surgery would be cut by 13%, according to industry group AdvaMed. CMS will spend the next 60 days examining the results of the comment period before making a final decision (Moore, Minneapolis Star Tribune, 6/11).
- Disabled beneficiaries: In a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chair Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and ranking member Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), Medicare Rights Center President Robert Hayes asked the committee to hold a hearing on a federal policy that requires a 24-month waiting period before people with debilitating disabilities can begin Medicare coverage, CQ HealthBeat reports. The group's letter comes one year after the introduction of a bill (S 1217) that would phase out the waiting period. According to a Commonwealth Fund study, 4% of people waiting for coverage die annually (CQ HealthBeat, 6/9).