Medicare begins PET Alzheimer's reimbursement

November 4, 2004

After a 90-day comment period elapsed, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced in late September that it will begin reimbursing PET scans for some patients with suspected Alzheimer's disease.

Coverage is limited to patients who have atypical symptoms that cannot be clinically distinguished as Alzheimer's or a frontotemporal dementia such as Pick's disease. CMS determined that PET scans would be useful in distinguishing between Alzheimer's and the other conditions in terms of patterns of degeneration, but it stopped short of concluding that such scans could conclusively identify Alzheimer's on their own.

To qualify, patients must have demonstrated cognitive decline for at least six months and show symptoms of both conditions with no clinically clear cause.