Cardiac Rehabilitation

Posted on January 12, 2010


A new study finds that cardiac rehabilitation can be very helpful, but many people do not attend cardiac rehab as frequently as is necessary to gain the full benefits. The study published in Circulation looked at more than 30,000 medical records of Medicare patients who were 65 and older and had attended at least one cardiac rehab session between 2000 and 2005.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiac rehabilitation is a comprehensive program designed to help slow or reverse cardiovascular disease. It is a medically supervised program to help patients recover quickly. Cardiac rehabilitation also works to improve physical, social and mental well-being. Cardiac rehabilitation can include a variety of services including: nutrition counseling, fitness and emotional support.

Medicare will pay for 80 percent of the Medicare approved amount for cardiac rehab after you have met the Part B deductible. Medicare will pay for two to three sessions a week for 12 to 18 weeks, up to 36 sessions in total. Medicare will only pay for cardiac rehabilitation if you meet certain criteria and receive care in the outpatient department of a hospital or in a doctor-directed clinic. MassHealth and other Medicaid programs may also cover rehab services. For more information on these programs, contact the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050.

Despite the fact that Medicare will pay for 36 sessions, about half of the people in the study attended 24 sessions or less. For participants who used all 36 sessions there was a 12 percent lower risk of heart attack and 14 percent lower risk of death compared to participants who only used 24 sessions. There was an even greater difference in risk of death and heart attack in those who attended only 12 sessions or only one session as compared to people who used 36 sessions.

The study also found that less than one-fifth of people who are eligible for cardiac rehabilitation actually receive cardiac rehabilitation services.