Medicare now covers exercise training for blocked leg arteries

Research we're watching

Published: August, 2017

About 8.5 million Americans have peripheral artery disease, or PAD, in which fatty plaque clogs arteries outside of the heart, most commonly in the legs. The hallmark symptom is calf or thigh pain while walking that goes away when you rest.

The safest, most effective treatment for PAD is supervised exercise training, in which you're monitored while walking on a treadmill. Few people participate, however, partly because of the expense of the regimen. It involves up to 36 sessions of 30 to 60 minutes each over a period of three months.

But in late May, Medicare announced that it will now cover supervised exercise therapy for PAD, which means other insurers will likely follow suit. Under the new policy, you will need to see a doctor for a referral and receive information about other ways to lower your risk of PAD. These include stopping smoking and losing weight (if needed) and controlling your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels.

As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.