At last, some good news about the cost of health care. Thanks to a groundbreaking decision, Medicare now reimburses eligible beneﬁciaries for intensive cardiac rehabilitation (ICR) at the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa in Miami, Fla. Medicare will pay for the intensive diet and exercise program for individuals with history or risk of cardiovascular events. Those eligible can attend a one- or two-week residential or non-residential program and be reimbursed for up to 72 ICR sessions with Pritikin’s physicians, exercise physiologists, dietitians and other health professionals. (Accommodations, food and other expenses—an estimated 50 percent of the cost—are the responsibility of the guest.)
The heart-healthy Pritikin Program has changed little since Nathan Pritikin introduced it 50 years ago. This lifestyle-altering program continues to emphasize exercise and a plant-based diet low in fat, cholesterol and sodium—with impressive results. More than 115 clinical studies published in peer-reviewed medical journals over the last few decades have demonstrated dramatic health beneﬁts: reduced need for bypass surgery and medication as well as healthier levels of heart-disease risk factors such as cholesterol, triglycerides, body mass index and others. Given that track record, it’s hardly surprising that Pritikin is the ﬁrst healthy lifestyle education program in the United States to meet Medicare’s stringent coverage criteria. So, who qualiﬁes?
“The program at this time is limited to several signiﬁcant disease processes,” says cardiologist Ronald Scheib, M.D., F.A.C.C., medical director of the Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa. “They include a heart attack within a year, a previous coronary artery bypass surgery, previous coronary angioplasty (stent), chronic angina pectoris, previous cardiac transplantation or valve surgery.”
It may be limited, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.