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Abdominal Aortic Aneruysms Group Recognized by Medicare

by Lynn Shapiro, Writer | March 06, 2009
CT of abdominal aortic aneurysm
Legislation has been introduced (H.R. 1213, Screening Abdominal Aortic Aneurysms Very Efficiently, or SAAAVE, Act of 2009) to make screening available to more Medicare beneficiaries.

H.R. 1213 was introduced on February 26, 2009 by Reps. Gene Green (D-TX) and John Shimkus (R-IL). Both serve on the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee.

H.R. 1213 unlinks abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening from the Welcome to Medicare Physical Exam during the first 12 months of enrollment and expands the one-time screening to 65-75 year-old Medicare beneficiaries who are at-risk for AAA. These include male-ever smokers and men and women with a family history.

AAA is an enlargement or "bulge" that develops in a weakened area within the largest artery in the body. If AAA remains undetected, the aortic wall will continue to weaken and the aneurysm will grow. AAAs remain entirely asymptomatic until they rupture, but at that point individuals suffer intense pain, massive internal bleeding and death. Since it takes several years for an AAA to grow to a dangerous size, the disorder is very suitable for discovery by screening. Nearly 200,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with AAA annually; approximately 15,000 die each year from ruptured AAAs.

"Initial passage of the SAAAVE Act in 2005 demonstrated Congress' desire to prevent unnecessary American deaths from ruptured AAAs," said Robert Zwolak, MD, chair of Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) Health Policy Committee and SVS Vice President. "However, linking AAA screening to the Welcome to Medicare Physical Exam is too complex, limiting access to these life-saving screenings. In order to implement the original Congressional intent, this preventive measure must be unlinked from the physical exam, thus allowing all appropriately targeted Medicare beneficiaries to undergo screening as recommended by the United States Preventive Services Task Force."