Houston hospital's heart transplant program to lose Medicare funding Aug. 17

CMS will cut off Medicare funding for Houston-based Baylor St. Luke's Medical Center's heart transplant program Aug. 17, according to the Houston Chronicle.

In a July 16 letter to St. Luke's, CMS said the hospital was required to notify Medicare beneficiaries awaiting heart transplants by the end of the day July 17 that the hospital will lose its Medicare billing privileges Aug. 17. St. Luke's also must assist patients on its heart waiting list who want to transfer to another hospital, according to the letter.

St. Luke's has until Sept. 14 to appeal the ruling before an administrative law judge, but an appeal would not stop CMS from terminating Medicare funding for the heart transplant program next month. St. Luke's has not decided whether to appeal the ruling, a hospital spokesperson told the Houston Chronicle.

The hospital suspended its heart transplant program for 14 days beginning 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 violated a federal statute by failing to notify the agency of its plan to temporarily suspend the heart transplant program. In a June 22 letter to St. Luke's, CMS said the hospital had not done enough to ensure patient safety.

St. Luke's officials have not said whether they will shut down the hospital's heart transplant program after Medicare funding ends, according to the report.

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