Will Medicare cover TAVI/ TAVR?


Updates to this story have been posted here.

In an article re-post from the Heart.org, Lisa Nainggolan discusses a recent memo issued by Medicare & Medicaid services (CMS) on potential coverage for TAVI/ TAVR.    This memo lays out the necessary criteria and conditions that must be met for CMS coverage.

Don’t have medicaid or medicare?  Well, the privately insured should still sit up and take notice:  CMS decisions usually set the pace for everyone else – meaning, if Medicare won’t pay for it – then Blue Cross, Anthem and most of the big private insurances won’t either.

CMS draft of proposed coverage – the Heart.org 

Lisa Nainggolan

Baltimore, MD – The US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a memo detailing its proposed coverage for transcatheter aortic-valve replacement (TAVR) [1]. The move follows a request for national coverage determination (NCD) from the ACC and Society for Thoracic Surgeons (STS), made last September.

The memo—which is a draft and will be open for public comment until March 3—outlines the conditions under which the CMS will cover TAVR, also known as transcatheter aortic-valve implantation (TAVI), and follows hard on the heels of an expert consensus document on the new technology, published earlier this week.

An estimated 45 000 patients have received TAVI worldwide, with most procedures so far being performed in Europe. US approval of the Edwards Sapien valve at the end of last year means that the country must now gear up to introduce this technology nationwide, and the expert guidance has been designed to act as a roadmap for the rollout of TAVI in the US.

Five conditions must be met for Medicare coverage of TAVR

TAVR will be covered for the treatment of severe symptomatic aortic-valve stenosis only, says the CMS, and the following five conditions must be met:

  • The procedure is performed for an approved indication with a valve and implantation system that has received FDA approval for this indication.
  • Two cardiac surgeons have evaluated the patient’s suitability for open valve-replacement surgery. (traditional cardiac surgery)
  • The procedure is performed in a facility that meets certain requirements with regard to surgical and interventional cardiology expertise. In addition, institutions with prior TAVR experience must participate in ongoing trials or postapproval studies, and all centers performing TAVR must commit to the “heart-team” concept and enroll in a prospective national TAVR study.
  • TAVR must be carried out by sufficiently qualified and experienced physicians.
  • The treating team must participate in a national registry that enrolls TAVR patients and tracks the following outcomes: major stroke; all-cause mortality; minor stroke/transient ischemic attack; major vascular events; and acute renal injury.

For unlabeled uses of TAVI, the CMS proposes coverage only in the context of a clinical trial, for which it lists 13 conditions.

The CMS also indicates that it will not cover TAVR for any other indications not specified in its memo, nor will it cover the procedure in patients who also have concomitant conditions, including: mixed aortic-valve disease; isolated aortic regurgitation; untreated clinically significant coronary artery disease requiring revascularization; hypertrophic cardiomyopathy; echocardiographic evidence of intracardiac mass; significant aortic disease; and severe obstructive calcification or tortuosity of the iliofemoral vessel or small vessel size.

It’s a mixed win for American cardiologists and cardiac surgeons – and certainly opens the door to the expanded use of this criteria.  The good news is that CMS is taking the initiative to stem off a flood of inappropriate procedures.  The release of this memo, along with the recent publication of new guidelines re-affirming the role of CABG, and relegating PCI to specific circumstances  is almost certainly a response to the numerous scandals and allegations affecting cardiology in 2011 (and ongoing.)

Which hospitals should have TAVR/ TAVI programs?

This article outlines the basic requirements for a safe and successful TAVR program – including the minimum skill requirements for surgeons and interventionalists.

But I suspect – it won’t be long before more and more hospitals open their own programs.  This article highlights the financial gains for hospitals with TAVR programs.

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