Ed Yeates ReportingThere's been a change of heart for Medicare and thousands of patients over age 65. One of the first patients from a multi-state area walked into LDS Hospital this morning to get what is now a Medicare reimbursed for a permanent artificial heart assist device.
66-year old Frank McMasters from Pocatello, Idaho has come to Salt Lake City to get a new heart, so to speak. With end stage heart failure and no options left, Medicare has now agreed to pay for an LVAD artificial heart assist device, which will soon become a permanent fixture in his body.
LDS Hospital is among the first three or four medical centers to get the Medicare approval since it is established one of the most active and successful LVAD implants programs in the country. Physically, and now financially, Frank and others like him - 65 and older - will reap the benefits.
Frank McMasters, LVAD recipient: "We're going to be one of the first ones, and boy, it's going to be a boon to us. I've just really felt good about it, just the whole thing."
LVAD's are now implanted in about a thousand patients per year, mostly as a temporary holdover for real heart transplants. But now as a Medicare funded permanent replacement for older Americans, that per year number will increase substantially.
James Long, M.D., Ph.D., LDS Hospital Artificial Heart Program: "We believe that within the next three to five years, that will progressively ramp up into the three thousand and five thousand and maybe beyond that - ten thousand range."
That projection flexes even more when you consider hundreds of thousands of people with end stage heart failure.
James Long, M.D., Ph.D., LDS Hospital Artificial Heart Program: "Once we get to a stage where we can deliver a very cost effective therapy, then we will be able to meet the 50 to 100-thousand patients per year who desperately need this."
Clinical trials showed a three-fold survivorship after the first two years with a permanent LVAD. And as new generation pumps come on line, Dr. Long predicts that will only get better. James Long, M.D., Ph.D., LDS Hospital Artificial Heart Program: "We anticipate that within the next three to five years, we will have centers across the country that will equal or exceed survival statistics with transplantation."
And compared to transplantation, follow-up care for LVAD patients costs less.
Also, new generation artificial heart pumps last longer and are getting smaller. New models will be compact enough to fit into adolescents and children.