January 8, 2007—On Jan. 1, Medicare began to cover ultrasound screening to detect abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAAs) in high-risk beneficiaries, defined as beneficiaries with a family history of the condition or male beneficiaries who have smoked more than 100 cigarettes during their lifetimes. These beneficiaries must receive the screenings within their first 6 months of Medicare eligibility.

Medical device companies that manufacture the endovascular stent grafts used to treat AAAs stand to profit from the decision; companies such as Medtronic Inc, Minneapolis, lobbied last year for the Medicare coverage. Jan Wald, an analyst at brokerage firm A.G. Edwards, St. Louis, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press, “Right now, it’s probably a $100 million to $150 million market” for endovascular stent grafts. “It could very easily be a $500 million to $800 million market down the road.”

—Cat Vasko