Monterey, CA To Stent Or Not To Stent A Patient Prior To A Stroke, That Is The Question For Researchersby Richard Kuehn on 10/02/12
Medical device makers are putting pressure on Medicare to pay for surgery to implant neck stents in patients who are at a high risk of having a stroke but have not yet had them. They have their work cut out for them. Not only is Medicare in one of the most critical points in its history where it must face a rapidly increasingly number of new enrolees, but costs of health care need to be reined in as well. A group of well respected physicians is pointing to research that drugs are as good as stents in stroke prevention in a move to try and stop medical-device makers from getting reimbursed for stents to open neck arteries. 38 physicians wrote an open letter to Medicare urging them not to pay for this procedure. There are about 100,000 people in the U.S. that have not had a stroke, but that some think would be good candidates for this preventative surgery. These are patients that have had mini-strokes or are showing temporary symptoms which make their physicians believe they could be in danger of having a stroke. As is the case with many arguments about medical care these days, the issue is money. One researcher argues that a $21,200 carotid operation and a $33,500 carotid-stent placement costs the U.S. taxpayers up to 8x what drug therapy would cost. It's great to see this debate going on with a number of prominent physicians and researchers joining the discussion. Many times, our insurance companies, whether it be private insurance companies or Medicare or Medi-Cal, end up making decisions without input from a wide array in the medical community and their patients. These types of decisions need to be made in an informed, open forum.