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Heart Failure Accounts for 37% of Medicare Spending

Patients with the condition see doctors far more frequently, study finds

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Medicare beneficiaries with heart failure have many more doctor visits and take more medications than those without heart failure, researchers are reporting.

They based their conclusion on an analysis of data on 173,000 Medicare beneficiaries. The overall average age of the beneficiaries was 70.7 years, while the average age for those with heart failure was between 76 and 77 years.

The analysis found that:

  • Patients with severe heart failure saw an average of 23 different Medicare providers a year, compared with about 7.9 providers for typical Medicare beneficiaries.
  • Those with mild heart failure saw an average of 15.9 providers a year, and those with moderate heart failure saw an average of 18.6 providers a year.
  • Patients with all stages of heart failure received an average of 61 prescriptions annually, compared with 29 for a typical beneficiary.
  • About 26 percent of office visits for heart failure were to internal medicine specialists and about 20 percent were to family practice physicians. Visits to cardiologists for those with mild, moderate and severe heart failure increased as heart failure worsened and were 16 percent, 18 percent, and 20 percent, respectively.
  • About 46 percent of severe heart failure patients had diabetes, 46 percent had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or other respiratory diseases, and about 32 percent had kidney disease.
  • In 2005, beneficiaries with heart failure accounted for 37 percent of all Medicare spending and almost 50 percent of all hospital inpatient costs. Typical inpatient costs for a severe heart failure patient were about $24,000 a year, compared to about $3,000 for a typical beneficiary.

The findings were expected to be presented Nov. 12 at the American Heart Association's annual scientific sessions, in New Orleans.

"These findings highlight the complexity of treating heart failure patients who often have serious co-morbidities," and "stress the importance of developing comprehensive and coordinated care," study lead author Robert Page, an associate professor of clinical pharmacy and physical medicine, and clinical specialist in the cardiology division at the University of Colorado School of Pharmacy and Medicine, said in a heart association news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about heart failure.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 12, 2008

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