WaPo reports about ‘the most expensive single decision in Medicare’s history’:
The government has decided to expand its coverage for surgically implanted heart-shocking devices for people with weakened hearts, in what could be the most expensive single decision in Medicare’s history, federal officials said yesterday.
More than half a million Americans with the progressive heart-weakening condition known as congestive heart failure could be eligible for the battery-powered implants and accompanying surgery under the plan, which Medicare officials said they will roll out in the next week or so.
The devices, known as implantable cardioverter-defibrillators, or ICDs, sense heart rhythm abnormalities and deliver shocks to the heart when potentially fatal flutters occur.
The Medicare decision, however, will be significant for more than its cost, which officials said yesterday could be about $3 billion a year. It also represents the most aggressive effort yet to use the federal insurance plan for the elderly as a backdoor way to learn more about what works and what does not in medicine.
As a condition of coverage, Medicare will insist on collecting ongoing information about patients’ health, which may help the program decide over time whether ICDs help certain types of patients.