By Bruce Skyer, NKF CEO
Over the past few weeks, NKF has asked for your help to stop Medicare from cutting dialysis payments. We greatly appreciate all of you who have taken the time to join our efforts, spreading the word and contacting your Members of Congress through our Take Action center. Last week I traveled to Capitol Hill and, together with other members of the kidney community, met with Senate Finance Committee Members Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and House Energy and Commerce Committee Member Representative John Shimkus (R-IL) to discuss NKF’s concerns about the CMS proposed 9.4% cut to dialysis treatments. These members serve on committees that have a vital role in passing laws related to Medicare.
During my meetings, I explained that cutting payment to a program that over 350,000 Medicare beneficiaries literally rely on will hurt patients and their families who are already coping with the challenges of living with a chronic illness. These cuts will likely result in unintended consequences that disrupt dialysis patient access to quality care—now and in the future.
I also shared NKF’s other concerns about the impact of these cuts. Many clinics offer services like free patient education programs, and we worry that these additional benefits will be lost. These programs are essential to improving the health of dialysis patients. Cuts of this magnitude likely mean that companies will stop hiring new staff, which would lead to heavier patient caseloads for employees and less time for those patients who need their help the most. In addition, these staff members will likely have to take on more administrative responsibilities further reducing their time spent providing the counseling and assistance that dialysis patients need so badly. I also explained how many smaller dialysis providers and those centers that mainly serve Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries may no longer be able to operate.
We also want the government to consider the impact of these cuts on dialysis treatment options. For example, patients who choose to receive nocturnal or home hemodialysis so that they can continue to work may not be offered these choices. As the number of patients with kidney failure who rely on dialysis continues to grow, we need more facilities, programs, and choices for patients.
NKF is eager to work with the Administration to identify ways to reduce costs and improve quality, and we have already begun developing policy proposals. If we work together, we can create a strategy that does not involve slashing Medicare payments so low that it doesn’t cover today’s cost of care. You can be assured that lawmakers are indeed listening to the concerns of patients and professionals. In the House of Representatives, over 200 Members have signed a letter to the head of Medicare asking her to ensure Medicare payments cover the cost of dialysis.
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