Medicare Covering Dean Ornish’s Yoga and Meditation Program for Heart Disease

Medicare Part B, the U.S. government health insurance program for those 65 and older, is now covering the “Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease,” under a new benefit category, “Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation (ICR), according to a report by The first patients started in May 2011.

“The reason that I spent 16 years working with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to achieve Medicare coverage for our program is that I knew that most insurance companies follow Medicare’s lead,” said Ornish in the report. “In other words, if Medicare covered our program, most other insurance companies would, as well. Reimbursement as well as science are primary determinants of medical practice. If it’s not reimbursable, it’s not sustainable.”

The Ornish program, which teaches a plant-based, meatless diet, meditation and regular exercise, is the only program scientifically proven to reverse heart disease currently offered in hospitals, clinics and physicians offices the Medicare and other private insurance companies are covering. Hospitals can now bill Medicare for their patient’s yoga and group discussion sessions, according to the report.

Additionally, overall adherence to the program has been 85 to 90 percent, after one year in hospitals and clinics that have offered it.

Helping patients make these lifestyle changes costs Medicare about $70 per hour, and patients can receive up to 72 one-hour sessions, according to the report.

For more information on who qualifies for coverage, visit the Preventative Medicine Research Institute.