Be a Part of NKF’s Kidney Patient Summit

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is hosting the 2nd Annual Kidney Patient Summit in Washington, DC, on March 2-3, 2015.  Join us for this special National Kidney Month event as we unite as one voice to tell Congress about the importance of awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease!

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Medicare Open Enrollment Season—Know Your Options

Medicare Open Enrollment season is here, and you have from now until December 7th to change your Medicare Part D (prescription drug plan) or Medicare Advantage plan (managed care plan) for 2015.  Research has shown that only 13% of beneficiaries change their Part D plan even when doing so could result in better coverage and lower costs for beneficiaries.  These drug plans change every year, so even if you stay in the same plan, which medications are covered and the cost you have to pay for them may change next year.  Click here to learn more about how to review your Medicare Part D options and why it’s so important.

You can also compare your options for both Medicare Advantage plans and Medicare Part D plans on Medicare’s plan finder website.  Note: if you have end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and are in a Medicare Advantage plan, you may not be able to switch plans unless the plan is offered by the same company you have now.  However, you can choose to go into Medicare fee for service (Part B).  Also, if you have ESRD and are in Medicare Part B, you cannot enroll in Medicare Advantage.  Everyone is eligible to choose and switch among Part D plans.

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FDA Permits Importation of PD Solution

Last month Baxter announced they were experiencing a shortage of their peritoneal dialysis (PD) solutions.  While current patients were able to receive their shipments on time, many experienced disruptions in their normal delivery.  Many new patients were unable to start PD.  The National Kidney Foundation submitted comments to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), urging the agency to quickly review and determine if Baxter could safely import solutions from its overseas facilities.  While NKF did not act alone in advocating for an expedited solution, we are pleased that efforts were heard and that yesterday evening the FDA announced that it will allow importation of some Dianeal solutions from Baxter’s facility in Ireland.  This is expected to help alleviate the shortage until Baxter is able to ramp up production in the U.S.

While the Dianeal solution manufactured in Ireland is the same solution made in the U.S., there are some differences in the packaging including the connectors and the quantity of solution in each bag.  You can read more about what to look for in Baxter’s letter to patients and learn more about this issue on the FDA’s website.

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Join NKF and Make a Difference

washingtonYou may already follow the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Maybe you read our blog posts or visit our website for information. But did you know you can also join NKF and become part of the oldest and largest kidney organization in the country? You’ll join in our shared mission to improve the lives of people affected by kidney disease.

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Meet Ewo Harrell – Winner of Rich Salick Memorial Scholarship

Ewo Harrell moved to Paris, France after graduation from Union College in NY, in hopes to gain experience for a future career in Foreign Service.  But in 2011, less than a year later, Ewo became very sick and French researchers and physicians discovered she had a rare condition called “collapsing glomerulopathy” combined with lupus.  The addition of lupus made the kidney disease aggressive and difficult to treat.  Ewo began hemodialysis treatment indefinitely while recovering from complications from kidney failure.

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NKF Responds to Medicare’s Proposed Changes to Payment and Quality Programs for Dialysis Facilities

Back in July we shared the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid’s (CMS) proposed changes to dialysis payment and quality incentive program.  After gathering input from kidney patients and professionals we issued formal comments to CMS, which included recommendations for revising their proposals to strengthen patients’ access to high quality care.

Our concern about the proposed changes to payment is that rural facilities that already, on average, lose money treating Medicare patients would receive payment cuts.     Dialysis providers are likely to close facilities that continue to lose money, which could cause patients to face greater transportation challenges if they have to commute further for dialysis.  NKF recommended that CMS make changes to the way it pays for dialysis to ensure facilities in rural areas are able to cover the costs of providing the care that is needed to improve the health of their patients.

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NKF Expresses Disappointment Over Dialysis Five-Star Rating Program

CMSThe Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is planning to implement a new program to help patients and their loved ones better understand the quality of care delivered by dialysis facilities through a five-star rating system. While the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) appreciates the efforts of CMS, we are disappointed by their announcement on September 10, 2014 that it does not plan to make changes to the Dialysis Five-Star Rating Program before rolling it out. Instead, CMS will delay the program launch from October 2014 to January 2015 in order to engage in a patient education effort about the system.

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How I Helped the Institute of Medicine Understand How to Better Involve Patients in Healthcare

By Caroline Wilkie

IMG_0373I am a kidney patient who has been on dialysis for the past four and a half years. I am passionate about spreading awareness about kidney disease. So when I got an invitation to speak at the Institute of Medicine last month, I was excited and a bit nervous—I am not a huge fan of public speaking! I was part of a panel that spoke at the Evidence Communication Innovation Collaborative meeting on shared decision making in end-of-life care and chronic illnesses. This is obviously an important, sensitive topic that needs to be addressed. Shared decision making is a collaborative process that allows patients and healthcare professionals to make decisions together. It utilizes the experience of the professional while also considering the preferences of the patient. Often, patients are not fully informed of all our care options. This process ensures patients have the information we need to make decisions and empowers us to take control of our health.

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Medicare Rules that You Won’t Have to Choose Between Dialysis and Hospice if You Have a Terminal Illness

Dr. Beth Piraino, NKF President

As a follow-up to our post End of Life Decisions for Dialysis Patients: Update on Proposed Medicare Rule, we are pleased to report that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) have affirmed that dialysis patients who enter hospice for a terminal illness unrelated to their kidney failure may continue to receive dialysis services paid for under Medicare Part B. This is a great relief for patients and their families who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and wish to enter hospice care. End of life decisions are not easy for anyone and hospice care can provide patients with palliative care and the psychosocial support necessary to help patients and families through this difficult time. The National Kidney Foundation is pleased that CMS continues to recognize the need for patients to have continued access to dialysis when entering hospice care for an unrelated condition.

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Defining Quality Care: Is There A Disconnect Between Patients and Medicare?

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid (CMS) has implemented many initiatives to ensure that dialysis facilities provide high quality care to Medicare beneficiaries.  These include a pay for performance program and a website where users can compare dialysis facilities to one another, among other activities geared to monitor, track and encourage improvement in the quality of care dialysis facilities provide.  Now, CMS has stated it will launch a new program later this year that rates dialysis facilities using a five star rating system.  NKF wanted to better understand how patients judge quality as well as determine their knowledge of Medicare’s public reporting on quality programs.  Therefore, we surveyed dialysis patients and their families through an online survey and received nearly 1,000 responses. [1]

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