Medicare Coverage Approved for Two Intensive Cardiac Rehab Programs


The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced that two intensive diet and exercise programs developed for the reduction of cardiovascular event risk have been approved for payment under Part B of Medicare. The Ornish and Pritikin cardiac rehabilitation programs have been found to effectively slow or reverse the progression of coronary heart disease.

Medicare Part B to Pay for Ornish and Pritikin Cardiac Rehab Programs

Cardiac rehabilitation was developed in the 1950’s as a highly structured, physician supervised exercise program to promote early mobilization after acute myocardial infarction (heart attack). Today, cardiac rehab programs also incorporate comprehensive lifestyle modifications such as diet, smoking cessation, and stress management sessions.

CMS staff reviewed six studies of the Pritikin program and nine on the Ornish diet plan that appeared in peer-reviewed publications. The results of the studies indicate that the programs can reduce markers of coronary heart disease such as angina frequency and vascular stenosis. The plans may also reduce the need for surgeries such as coronary artery bypass grafts (CABG) and percutaneous inverventions (angioplasty).


Read: Ornish Diet - Eat More and Weigh Less?

The Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease was founded in the 1970’s and provides a comprehensive approach to reducing the risk factors for heart disease, including LDL cholesterol, body weight, and blood pressure. Dr. Ornish’s most recent version of the program is called the “Spectrum Program”, which is offered at sites including Hamot Heart Institute in Erie PA and Stamford Hospital in Connecticut.

The Pritikin Program, which has been around since the 1950’s, has been called “the most effective, most scientifically documented health and weight-loss program in the world”. In studies conducted at the Pritikin Longevity Center, participants have shown improvements in LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, blood glucose, and body weight.

Read: Pritikin Diet Breakthrough - Why We Crave Fats

The programs will be available to all Medicare beneficiaries, regardless of income. To qualify for cardiac rehabilitation coverage, participants must be referred to a program by a physician. Those eligible include patients who have had a heart attack in the last 12 months, had coronary bypass surgery, a diagnosis of stable angina pectoris, have had heart valve repair/replacement, angioplasty or coronary stenting, or who have had a heart or heart-lung transplant.