American Heart Association presses Congress to address care access for heart and stroke patients in Medicare extenders bill

February 02, 2018 Categories: Advocacy News

WASHINGTON, D.C.Feb2, 2018 — American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown issued the following statement today urging Congress to include three provisions in the Medicare extenders legislation that would vastly improve access to care for Americans with cardiovascular disease (CVD):

“Every minute that passes when you have a stroke, or a heart attack can be catastrophic without immediate access to vital drugs and treatments. New stroke guidelines, recently released by the association, expand the timeframe for stroke victims to receive clot-dissolving surgery and drugs that can mean a full recovery for millions of patients.

To make this and other lifesaving treatments available to all Americans who suffer from strokes and heart disease, we implore Congress to pass a Medicare extenders bill immediately to permanently fix Medicare therapy caps, and expand access for telestroke and cardiac rehabilitation services.  

First, it is essential for Congress to preserve access to much-needed stroke rehabilitation services by addressing Medicare Part B therapy caps. Since 2006, the limitations on Medicare outpatient therapy payments have been dealt with via an exceptions process that allowed for medically necessary therapy over the cap amounts. But recent Congressional inaction has ended that process and therapy caps are now placing limits on treatment options for millions of stroke victims.

Secondly, Congress can aid Americans who struggle with stroke by passing the Furthering Access to Stroke Telemedicine or FAST Act in the extenders legislation. This bill would require Medicare to reimburse for telestroke services, regardless of where a patient lives. Currently, Medicare only covers these services for patients in rural areas, but not urban or suburban areas – where 94 percent of stroke victims reside.

Finally, the extenders legislation should include a provision that allows physician assistants, nurse practitioners and clinical nurse specialists to supervise cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation programs on a day-to-day basis under Medicare. Cardiac rehabilitation can improve the health and recovery of those who suffer from CVD, but it is vastly underutilized by Medicare beneficiaries. A recent estimate revealed that increasing participation of those eligible for cardiac rehabilitation from the current rate of 20 percent to 70 percent would save 25,000 lives and prevent 180,000 hospitalizations annually.

Heart disease and stroke are the among our nation’s most costly and common killers. Passage of these three legislative provisions in the Medicare extenders legislation would go a long way to provide crucial treatments for Americans struggling with cardiovascular disease.”


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

About the American Stroke Association

The American Stroke Association is devoted to saving people from stroke — the No. 2 cause of death in the world and a leading cause of serious disability. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat stroke. The Dallas-based association officially launched in 1998 as a division of the American Heart Association. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-888-4STROKE or visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association receives funding mostly from individuals. Foundations and corporations donate as well, and fund specific programs and events. Strict policies are enforced to prevent these relationships from influencing the Association's science content. Financial information for the American Heart Association, including a list of contributions from pharmaceutical companies and device manufacturers, is available at

For Media Inquiries:

Retha Sherrod:, 202-785-7929

For Public Inquiries: (800) AHA-USA1 (242-8721) and