The CMS said it intends to cover the implantation of left ventricular assist devices as permanent support for Medicare patients in end-stage heart failure. In a memo, the agency said only hospitals that had implanted at least 15 LVADs from Jan. 1, 2001, to Sept. 30, 2003 would qualify for payment. Meanwhile, eligible patients would not be candidates for heart transplants and would meet criteria established by a National Institutes of Health clinical trial. Medicare currently pays for LVAD implantation as a temporary bridge to heart transplant or as temporary support after open-heart surgery. The Food and Drug Administration approved marketing of LVADs for expanded use last November. Heart failure accounts for 5% to 10% of hospitalizations among Medicare beneficiaries.
HHS to create women's centers
HHS announced the creation of six national centers of excellence in women's healthcare to serve as "one-stop shopping" models for women's health services. HHS is providing $1 million for the centers, some of which will focus on women's health issues in rural areas. The centers are at Brown University, Providence, R.I.; Oregon Health and Science University, Portland; University of Arizona, Tucson; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson; and Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond. The centers will concentrate on preventive healthcare, recruitment and retention of women in medical careers, and coordination of clinical services between academic centers and surrounding communities.
Feds may cover duals'
Lawmakers trying to negotiate a Medicare reform package tentatively agreed to have the federal government pay at least some costs of prescription drug benefits for "dual eligibles," Medicare recipients who also qualify for Medicaid. Aides confirmed that the committee was close to an agreement but had not decided whether Medicare would cover prescriptions costs for all dual eligibles or only some of them. States currently shoulder the full cost of any drug benefit received by dual eligibles, spending about $7 billion a year.
House changes vote on overtime
The House voted 221-203 against a Bush administration proposal that could make some nurses ineligible for overtime, as well as potentially millions of other employees. The vote, largely symbolic, reverses the position the House took in July when it voted 213-210 to support the proposed revisions, which included an increase in the minimum salary threshold for required overtime and new definitions of white-collar workers. The Senate rejected the proposal in September. The House-Senate conference committee on 2004 appropriations could still decide to include the proposal in its final appropriations bill.