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Medicare Will Cover Limited Number of Heart Transplants

Associated Press

The nation’s Medicare system will soon begin paying for a limited number of heart transplants, Health and Human Services Secretary Otis Bowen said today.

Bowen estimated that about 65 heart transplants might be covered in the first year, at a cost to Medicare of about $5 million. By the time the program has been in operation for five years, his department is projecting Medicare coverage for 143 transplants a year at a cost of $25 million.

The next step, Bowen said, will be publication in the Federal Register of eligibility criteria for transplant centers. Up to 10 are expected to qualify for Medicare-covered heart transplants by virtue of their levels of experience and their success rates in past operations.

Although Medicare is primarily for elderly Americans, it also covers many disabled younger people. And since heart transplants have been less successful in aged than in young people, the program announced today will probably be generally limited to Americans under 55 years of age.

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The federal program is expected to be limited by the availability of usable donor hearts, which are in short supply whatever payment is involved.


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