Protect dialysis care for patients

April 1, 2014 | 2:56 am

Kidney disease impacts one in 10 Americans, so chances are most of your readers know someone with kidney disease or kidney failure. Dialysis care is a lifeline for many of these patients. Without dialysis or a transplant, patients would not survive.

Medicare cuts being discussed in Washington will have a significant impact on dialysis providers and the patients we serve nationwide, more than 80 percent of whom depend on Medicare for this life-sustaining treatment.

For these beneficiaries, dialysis providers receive a “bundled” payment for a multitude of services. Specifically, patients receive four-hour dialysis sessions at least three times a week, which includes lab services, nursing care, medications and more. Medicare barely covers the full cost of dialysis treatments; thus, many of our facilities lose money on the majority of patients we serve.

As policymakers in Washington discuss cuts to an already stretched “bundled” payment that is still adjusting to changes and approaching a “sequestration” cut in January, I fear facilities could close their doors, leaving patients in a precarious situation — forced to travel long distances to receive care, dialyze at a hospital emergency room that costs the system more money, or forego some necessary care altogether.

Lawmakers simply must not cut or restructure the vital services Medicare makes available to America’s kidney-failure patients.

I encourage your readers to contact U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley and Sen. Tom Harkin, and U.S. Rep. Dave Loebsack and express concern for patients in Cedar Rapids who rely on dialysis care.

Debbie Hooker

Marion

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