LOS ANGELES: As of April 1, 2003, Medicare will cease all national coverage of “multiple seizure” electroshock treatments, after an investigation revealed the practice is unworkable and places patients at risk. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) conducted the investigation after a December 2001 report by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) found multiple seizure electroshock had “none of the claimed benefits and many risks,” including “profound confusional states.”

Also known as multiple monitored ECT (MMECT), Medicare has been paying out $500,000 a year for its use. On February 24 this year, CMS said that Medicare would no longer cover this practice, stating, “The clinical effectiveness of multiple-seizure electroconvulsive therapy [ECT] has not been verified by scientifically controlled studies…studies have demonstrated an increased risk of adverse effect….”

CMS also found that in the elderly population, the risk may be “several fold higher” than for “younger patients for severe confusion, falls, and cardiorespiratory complications.” The elderly are a key market for ECT. In Texas, one of the few states that keeps track of shock statistics, 65-year-olds get 360 percent more ECT than 64-year-olds because Medicare coverage takes effect at sixty-five.

In the 1960s, psychiatrists added muscle relaxants to modify the assault on the body. Today, the administration of ECT is a $3-5 billion a year industry in the United States with more than 100,000 Americans undergoing it, many involuntarily. Yet, a 2001 Colombia University study found ECT is so ineffective at ridding patients of their depression that nearly all of those who receive it relapse within six months of stopping treatment.

Comments (2)

Ted YamamotoAugust 24th, 2010 at 12:58 pm

will medicare cover ECT today?

richieFebruary 17th, 2011 at 9:43 am

anyone have an answer

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