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Seniors Receiving More Preventive Cholesterol Screenings Since Medicare Increased Reimbursement Levels

Survey of Primary Care Physicians Demonstrates That Broader Reimbursement has Increased Cholesterol Screening Among Seniors

HAYWARD, Calif., July 14, 2005

Improved access to preventive cholesterol screenings for the 39 million Medicare-eligible beneficiaries was one goal of the landmark Medicare Modernization Act of 2003.

According to a recent survey of primary care physicians, improved Medicare coverage of cholesterol blood tests may have increased screening among seniors by up to 20 percent.

Commissioned by Cholestech, a leading manufacturer of point of care cholesterol testing devices, the qualitative survey measured the awareness and impact of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Service (CMS) ruling, which guarantees access to preventive cholesterol screenings for Medicare beneficiaries.

Results showed that nearly two thirds of physicians surveyed were aware of the increased reimbursement and 21 percent have increased preventive cholesterol screening among their Medicare patients since the coverage went into effect in January of 2005.

"At a time when healthcare expenditures are under continuous scrutiny, CMS increased coverage and therefore, access to preventive cholesterol screenings with the goal of improving cardiac care," said Warren E. Pinckert II, president and CEO of Cholestech.

"It is clear that this bold move is paying off and more seniors are getting screened -- a vital step in the identification of people at risk and the prevention of cardiovascular disease."

More than 400,000 seniors die from cardiovascular disease annually, representing 84 percent of the total number of cardiovascular deaths in the United States.

Further, it is estimated that 25 to 29 million Medicare-eligible seniors suffer from either coronary heart disease (CHD) or hardening of the arteries.

Since cholesterol remains one of the leading risks for cardiovascular disease, the National Cholesterol Education Program, developed by the National Institutes of Health, recommends that more than 200 million Americans need to be screened annually.

All Medicare beneficiaries now have access to preventive cholesterol screening blood tests for the early detection of cardiovascular disease and all new Medicare members will be covered for an initial physical examination.

Both include the use of three tests to detect early risk for cardiovascular disease, including total cholesterol, an HDL cholesterol, and a triglycerides test, which can be ordered as a lipid panel or individually.

Previously, Medicare beneficiaries were only covered for cholesterol tests if they suffered from diagnosed illnesses such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes or other disorders associated with elevated cholesterol levels.

In many cases, eligible seniors were already victims of one or more conditions that cholesterol screening might have caught and treatment may have prevented.

Using a simple finger-stick, the Cholestech LDX(R) point of care system supports the measurement of cholesterol, glucose and liver enzymes, ALT and AST, and soon, high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP). This enhances the ability to quickly identify patients with the most prevalent risk factors for heart disease and offer treatment or counseling in the same office visit.

Generating comprehensive, lab-accurate results in minutes, the LDX System enables physicians to focus on getting patients on the right treatment sooner and making sure they stay on the right therapeutic mix, rather than chasing down lab results.

The Cholestech LDX System has been certified by the Cholesterol Reference Method Laboratory Network (CRMLN), which validates that the system consistently meets the gold standard for accuracy and reproducibility developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the measurement of total cholesterol and HDL cholesterol consistent with National Cholesterol Education Program analytical goals.

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