Heart Transplant Programs May Lose Federal Funding For Not Meeting Medicare Standards

Armen Hareyan's picture
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CMS on Friday sent letters to three hospitals in Texas, Minnesota and Indiana informing them that they have 30 days to submit plans to overhaul their heart transplant programs or risk losing Medicare funding, the Los Angeles Times reports. A fourth hospital, University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center, has agreed to withdraw its heart transplant program from Medicare. In 2005 and 2006, each of the four hospitals performed fewer than the required 12 transplants annually. CMS since has lowered that threshold to 10 transplants per year (Ornstein/Weber, Los Angeles Times, 6/3).

The Times last year reported that about 20% of federally funded transplant programs do not meet minimum CMS standards (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 6/29/06).

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In order to retain funding, the three hospitals that received letters -- Christus Santa Rosa Hospital-Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas; Abbott Northwestern Hospital in Minneapolis; and St. Vincent Indianapolis Hospital -- must submit corrective plans that include explanations of why the programs fell short of the CMS standards. They must outline the measures that will be undertaken in the short and long term to guarantee continued compliance.

Jennifer Milton, director of the Christus Transplant Institute, said the hospital was not surprised by the letter because only five transplants were performed in 2006. She said, "We had already recognized that it was an issue." Milton said the hospital would strive to keep the program running and has established a partnership with the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio to develop more comprehensive services.

Chandler Medical Center in a statement said it would forgo Medicare funding for heart transplants while it focuses on increasing volume. David Moliterno, director of the hospital's heart institute, said transplants have decreased as a result of the increasing popularity of less-invasive procedures and other treatments.

Since 2006, eight transplant programs have agreed to forgo CMS funding, five are functioning under corrective plans approved by the agency and one has had its funding revoked (Los Angeles Times, 7/3).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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