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Medicare OKs Heart Implants

January 20, 2005|From Times Wire Services

WASHINGTON — The government has decided to expand Medicare coverage for surgically implanted devices for people with weakened hearts, Medicare officials said Wednesday.

The officials told the Washington Post that they would officially announce the plan in a week or so.

As many as 500,000 patients with congestive heart failure could be eligible for the battery-powered implants and accompanying surgery under the plan at a cost of about $3 billion a year, the officials said.

The devices, known as implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, or ICDs, sense potentially fatal abnormalities in heart rhythm and deliver shocks.

As a condition of the coverage, Medicare will collect information about the health of patients that will help determine over time how effective the devices are for different patients.

"Hopefully this will both ensure that patients get the best care as quickly as possible and also we'll continue to get smarter and learn more about unanticipated safety problems and how to use these technologies most effectively," Sean Tunis, chief clinical officer at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, told the Post.

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