Medicare cuts to affect CAPRI Heart & Lung Institute

The CAPRI Heart & Lung Institute is facing major changes, including closures, after Medicare cut major funding.

“At this moment, the House of Representatives has completely cut pulmonary rehab,” said CAPRI Heart & Lung Institute spokeswoman Diana George.

Feeling the effects of the government, pulmonary rehabilitation programs have had decreased funding throughout the past year. As of January 2008, Pulmonary Rehab will no longer be reimbursed by Medicare, according to a news release.

“(The cuts) means we will have to shut down Poulsbo’s and Port Orchard’s facilities and cut back at Bremerton,” she added. “What will happen all depends on what the Senate will do.”

George added that the current procedures for cardiopulmonary rehabilitation involve nurses tending to patients as doctors oversee the progress. With the lack of Medicare funding, doctors will oversee individual patients, creating a mountain of higher costs.

“It’s killing (cardiopulmonary rehab facilities) with kindness,” she added.

Helping Kitsap County battle cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases for 29 years, George said they help patients make a healthy, steady comeback overcoming the challenges of their life-altering diagnoses.

This includes teaching the patients better nutrition, physical activity and how to take their medication.

“For our pulmonary rehabilitation, I don’t know too many gyms that will allow people to work out with their oxygen ... We work them slowly but surely,” she added. “You have to put it back together slowly ... a heart you don’t see, but it’s like any other muscle.”

The CAPRI Heart & Lung Institute is the “icing on the cake” for Harrison Medical Center’s Cardiac programs, George added.

“If patients are not in cardiac rehab within two years, they will have a relapse (according to statistics),” George said. “If we’re decreasing a couple people from having heart attacks, we’re actually saving our government money.”

She added that due to the Medicare cuts, residents in their 20s and 30s will not have the program available to them in the future. These changes also could make these programs too expensive for hospitals and freestanding clinics to exist. Although the funding is dim, there is hope.

At this time, the Pulmonary and Cardiac Rehabilitation Bill is with the Senate Finance Committee awaiting approval. If it passes through this committee, it will continue through the whole Senate. If it does not pass, CAPRI will lose 25 percent of its budget, according to a news release.

“We’re kind of sitting (right now),” George said. “(People can help) by writing to your government to tell them it’s important to keep these types of programs in Medicare.”

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