On Friday, the final rule to update Medicare payments to dialysis providers was released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). We are pleased to say that this extensive ruling is a step in the right direction for dialysis patients.
Back in July, CMS proposed cutting dialysis payments by over 9% for 2014. The final rule is an improvement over the proposal because average Medicare payments for dialysis in 2014 and 2015 will remain relatively unchanged. There is also a 50% increase in payments for home dialysis training.
A downside of this rule is that the total cut is still about 9% from today’s rate, but it will be phased in over 3-4 years.NKF is hopeful that the phased-in approach to dialysis payment cuts minimizes any immediate, negative impact on patients’ access to quality care. We still have many long-term concerns with this payment system. Specific areas of concern include overcrowded facilities due to possible closures and consolidations, and over-burdened staff due to hiring freezes that reduce patients’ ability to access much-needed expert services such as nutritional counseling and social work. Additionally, cuts may result in providers offering fewer convenient treatment times due to consolidation. This may also hinder access to longer treatment times, which improves patient outcomes according to recent research.
While the full cut will still be implemented over the next few years, it is undeniable that CMS paid close attention to concerns raised by the National Kidney Foundation, and more importantly, our constituents. Your advocacy efforts, letters and phone calls helped shape a better outcome for dialysis patients across the U.S. next year.
Obviously, our work is not over. There are issues we will need to continue pressing in order to secure a better future for all kidney patients. This is why it is so important for kidney patients to play an active role in their health and the decisions that could impact their care. We encourage all kidney patients to get involved by visiting our Advocacy Center and signing up to receive action updates to have your voice heard in Washington. Together, we will continue to make sure kidney patients have access to the care and treatments they need, because advocacy works.