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Doctors conduct a heart procedure. Photo: Jeff Gritchen/Digital First Media/Orange County Register via Getty Images

Hospitals, doctors and medical device companies have successfully lobbied Medicare to abandon a proposed 30% cut in payments for certain surgeries involving heart pumps.

Why it matters: Regulators attempted to rein in spending on a powerful and well-financed niche, but the industry managed to preserve its payments yet again.

Where it stands: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in April proposed cutting rates for inpatient surgeries with "other heart assist system implants" by almost 30%.

  • Instead, in the final rule, federal officials backtracked and kept payments where they've been since 2018. Officials cited an "outlier circumstance" tied to coding data, and the agency did not comment beyond what was written in the rule.
  • These procedures often involve the Impella, a heart pump made by Abiomed, and usually cost Medicare around $75,000.

What they said: Many hospital systems, trade groups and surgeons argued that "extensive coding changes" over the past couple years have created billing inaccuracies, and therefore Medicare should not touch the payments because such a change would be based on flawed data.

This is wash, rinse, repeat in health care, as the industry deluged the federal government with opposition and got what it wanted.

  • Abiomed was among the loudest critics of the proposal. And it had a lot to lose, considering Medicare is "particularly significant to our business," Abiomed has told investors.
  • Several heart doctors used almost identical language in portions of their letters to Medicare, and have also have accepted tens of thousands of dollars in honoraria and other fees from Abiomed and other device makers, according to the federal database that tracks payments between industry and doctors.
  • An Abiomed spokesperson sent Axios a statement reiterating most of the points in its comment letter to Medicare. Abiomed did not make the author of its letter, Stacey Bunk, available for an interview, or answer follow-up questions about the company's payments to doctors. Multiple doctors did not respond to interview requests.

The bottom line: Big Heart fought off a big change to Medicare's payment system, and the main justification was everyone is bad at coding.

Go deeper

Scoop: Former OMB director to set up Pro-Trump think tanks

OMB Director Russ Vought parfticipates in a photo-op for the printing of President Donald Trumps budget for Fiscal Year 2020 at the Government Publishing Office in Washington on Thursday, March 7, 2019. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Russ Vought, who led Donald Trump's Office of Management and Budget, plans to announce two pro-Trump organizations Tuesday, aiming to provide the ideological ammunition to sustain Trump's political movement after his departure from the White House.

Why it matters: The Center for American Restoration and an advocacy arm, America Restoration Action, will try to keep cultural issues that animated Trump’s presidency on the public agenda, according to people familiar with the matter.

Janet Yellen confirmed as Treasury secretary

Janet Yellen. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate voted 84-15 to confirm Janet Yellen as Treasury secretary on Monday.

Why it matters: Yellen is the first woman to serve as Treasury secretary, a Cabinet position that will be crucial in helping steer the country out of the pandemic-induced economic crisis.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
4 hours ago - Economy & Business

Scoop: Red Sox strike out on deal to go public

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The parent company of the Boston Red Sox and Liverpool F.C. has ended talks to sell a minority ownership stake to RedBall Acquisition, a SPAC formed by longtime baseball executive Billy Beane and investor Gerry Cardinale, Axios has learned from multiple sources. An alternative investment, structured more like private equity, remains possible.

Why it matters: Red Sox fans won't be able to buy stock in the team any time soon.