Medicare now covers non-invasive peripheral artery disease treatment

Medicare now covers a supervised exercise therapy for peripheral artery disease (PAD), according to CMS, a decision that will likely result in other insurers following this example.

The new policy will help prevent some of the dangerous side effects associated with PAD, including heart attack, stroke, gangrene and amputation, according to a statement from the American Heart Association (AHA). Patients under the new policy will be required to visit a doctor to receive a referral for supervised exercise therapy and other educational resources that can help cut down on the prevalence of side effects.

Medicare will cover up to 36 sessions of 30 to 60 minutes each over a 12-week period. Approval for an additional 36 sessions is possible depending on the patient’s condition, according to the policy.

CMS’s decision to implement the new policy was partly influenced by a request last fall from the AHA that called for more focus on PAD. The policy is also based off guidelines from the AHA and the American College of Cardiology.

“Supervised exercise training is a safe and effective means to substantially improve walking distance,” said Mark Creager, MD, director of the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and a former AHA president who focused on PAD awareness and treatment during his tenure. “Hopefully this will open up more opportunities for more patients with PAD to get this treatment.”

Exercise therapy is the first non-invasive ways to treat PAD patients, said AHA CEO Nancy Brown in a statement.

“The Association has advocated for it since our first PAD guidelines were issued in 2005,” she said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with [the] decision that will give more Americans the access they need to this important treatment option.”