Heart beat: Wider coverage for home blood thinner checks

Heart beat

Wider coverage for home blood thinner checks

Millions of Americans take warfarin (Coumadin) to prevent blood clots. The drug can be a lifesaver, but it can also be a hassle. Unlike aspirin or a cholesterol-lowering statin, which you take at a fixed daily dose, the amount of warfarin must be adjusted every so often depending on the results of a one-minute blood test.

Most people make special trips to the doctor for this test, even though home testing kits are available and have been shown to improve warfarin use. Medicare and other insurers haven't been eager to cover the kits, limiting their use to people with mechanical heart valves.

Wider coverage may be at hand. Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Massachusetts now pays for home monitoring for people with atrial fibrillation or other conditions who need similar levels of anticoagulation as people with a mechanical heart valve. Your insurer may, too, so don't hesitate to ask if you'd rather check your level at home.

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