Could a new approach to cardiac rehab saves lives? - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Could a new approach to cardiac rehab saves lives?

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It's been standard practice for decades. Patients who've had a heart attack, coronary bypass surgery, or some other major event end up at Fletcher Allen's Cardiac Rehabilitation Center in South Burlington. Medicare has long covered cardiac rehab for those patients-- and those patients only-- until now.

"They can now do cardiac rehab-- covered by Medicare and other private insurers--- and people with chronic heart failure can do this in a safe, supervised setting," said Dr. Philip Ades, a cardiologist at Fletcher Allen Health Care.

After 10 years of effort, Ades says the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just approved cardiac rehabilitation for those with chronic heart failure. There are millions nationwide.

CHF means their hearts don't pump well and patients are often short of breath, even during simple daily tasks. It is the number one cause of hospitalizations nationwide in people 65 and older.

Ades says the benefits of rehab before a major event are significant.

"It's been known that people with chronic heart failure who do cardiac rehab are 30-percent less likely to be admitted to the hospital than people who don't," Ades said. "So that's one of the reasons we're excited about cardiac rehab now being approved by Medicare for people with chronic heart failure. It will keep them out of the hospital, they'll live longer and their quality of life will improve. So, this is a big deal that we were able to accomplish this."

Ades led the national effort to win Medicare's approval. He says the 500-plus patients in Fletcher Allen's heart failure clinic will now have a new option to manage their disease at the rehab center he's managed for 30 years. It's a therapy expected to lower death rates, hospitalizations and health care costs.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services just issued final approval last week. The new coverage includes exercise, education, risk factor reduction and personal counseling for those with chronic heart failure.

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