June 6, 2006

US heart doctors group opposes Medicare pay changes

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Proposed changes in the way the U.S.
Medicare health insurance agency reimburses hospitals would
jeopardize doctors' ability to care for patients with
life-threatening heart conditions, a doctors' group said on

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in
April proposed rule changes aimed at redistributing funding for
in-patient care from more profitable and complex procedures,
such as heart device implants, to treatments that are more
routine and are seen as underfunded, such as pneumonia.

The payment changes proposed by CMS, which runs the
Medicare health program for more than 43 million elderly and
disabled people, would cut hospital staffing for critical
cardiac procedures, the Heart Rhythm Society said.

The result of such cutbacks would be to reduce patients'
access to life-saving therapy and technologies, such as
implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), which shock
racing hearts back to normal rhythm.

"CMS's proposed changes to the hospital in-patient payment
system will significantly hinder our mission to improve care
and advance treatments for heart rhythm disorders, such as
sudden cardiac arrest and atrial fibrillation," Dr. Dwight
Reynolds, president of the Heart Rhythm Society, said in a

The new CMS payment methodology would slash payments for
ICDs as much as 24 percent, pacemakers by 15 percent and
cardiac ablation surgery used to treat atrial fibrillation --
the most common abnormal heart rhythm -- 28 percent.

The changes would affect such companies as Medtronic Inc.,
St. Jude Medical and Boston Scientific Corp.

A comment period on the proposed Medicare changes, which
would cover in-patient hospital stays in 2007 and 2008, ends on
June 12.