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Ornish Program: Reducing Heart Disease Through A Fresh Approach

Indiana health coverage is now offering coverage for Medicare recipients who wish to participate in the Ornish Program for Reducing Heart Disease. Over the course of sixteen years, Ornish has proven to Medicare that the program is worthy and useful to heart patients. Last year, Medicare responded by approving coverage for participation in the program.

The medical community has long held that traditional treatments for chronic heart disease are insufficient. Aside from prescribing stronger meds or performing surgery, the medical specialists have been limited to recommendations for diet and exercise. However, with the Ornish program, patients with chronic heart problems are able to receive counseling for stress, and this has been viewed in some circles been as a breakthrough. The combination of group and individual therapies with yoga has produced some pretty amazing results within the participating groups. In fact, the results are so striking, they pushed Medicare off the fence on the subject. Indiana health coverage is now considering the inclusion of the Ornish program on other insurance policies.

For example, one BCBS division approved Ornish’s program in 1997. Patients who were diagnosed as being at risk for heart disease were given a chance to enroll in the program courtesy of their health insurance. BCBS reports that savings range from 30% to 60% per episode. That means the insurance company spends anywhere from $1500 to $3000 less for each cardiac episode. This is mostly due to the lower admission rate for cardiac attacks.

The Ornish Program for Reducing Heart Disease has proven that the practices reduce cardiac incidents. On average, blood pressure drops by significant amounts, and this has captured the attention of health care professionals. Cholesterol and BMI is also reduced at a rate worthy of note, leading even more health care professionals to become advocates of the program.

However, the Ornish program does have its drawbacks. The annual cost for treatment is nearly $6000 per person. Medicare and other health insurance policies pay about 80% of this cost. The cardiac rehabilitation traditionally prescribed lasts for eighteen weeks, and costs Medicare about $700. In addition, the Ornish program requires strict adherence to lifestyle changes, as well as dietary changes. This results in a very high dropout rate, and lower enrollment rates, as well. The limited appeal of the program has resulted in limited interest on the part of Indiana health coverage and other insurers as well.

According to one school of thought, the Ornish program is successful because it takes a certain dedication and personality to persevere through the program, and some theories maintain that the patients participating would succeed at the traditional treatments as well.

In addition, one of the roadblocks to popularization of this program is the fact that many doctor’s offices can’t afford to hire the many professionals that participate in the treatment. Counselors, dieticians, exercise physiologist, case managers, and yoga instructors are among the staff required to run this program wok. Indiana health coverage points out that not many staffing opportunities exist to this extent.

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