Price of heart attack care on steady rise

The cost to the Medicare program for treating heart attack patients has risen by nearly 20 percent between 1998 and 2008, with post-discharge care driving the increase, Newsday reported.

According to Newsday, the average per-patient costs rose $6,100, or 16.5 percent, based on a study recently published in JAMA Internal Medicine, which examined more than 300,000 Medicare discharges of heart attack patients treated in 1998-1999 and in 2008. Nearly three-quarters of that cost was associated with care delivered more than 30 days after the initial discharge.

That increase is significantly higher than the overall rise in Medicare costs during that same period--they rose 5.9 percent per beneficiary, according to MedPage Today.

Much of the care revolved around hospice and nursing home care, durable medical equipment and outpatient care. The mortality rate for patients 31 days to one year after discharge dropped from 36 percent to 31.6 percent over the decade studies. Hospitals have been pushing cardiac rehabilitation programs as a way of improving long-term outcomes.

"Many of these would not have survived a decade or two ago," said Devon Herrick, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis. "This illustrates the cost of incremental improvements in medical care; we're paying more, but we're getting more."

To learn more:
- read the Newsday article
- here's the MedPage Today article

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