Houston hospital's heart transplant program to lose Medicare funding

Houston-based Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center's heart transplant program is set to lose Medicare funding Aug. 17, according to ProPublica.

The hospital suspended its heart transplant program for 14 days starting June 1 after an investigation by ProPublica and the Houston Chronicle revealed the hospital's heart transplant survival rate ranks near the bottom nationally, and three of nine patients who received heart transplants at the hospital in the first six months of 2018 have died. The program resumed June 15 after hospital officials said changes were made to improve care.

CMS notified St. Luke's in late June that the hospital had violated a federal statute by failing to notify the agency of its plan to suspend the heart transplant program. CMS said St. Luke's had not done enough to ensure patient safety and that the agency would end funding for the hospital's heart transplant program Aug. 17.

Unless there is a last-minute delay, which would be unusual, St. Luke's will no longer be able to bill Medicare or Medicaid for heart transplants as of Aug. 17, according to ProPublica.

A St. Luke's spokesperson told ProPublica the hospital is communicating with CMS about possible ways to maintain federal approval, and it has taken steps to ensure the critically ill patients in its heart transplant program will continue to receive the care they need.

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