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Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Emory: Modifications to Medicare’s Payment System Could Support Care Innovation for Growing Dialysis Population

In a commentary published in the American Journal of Kidney Diseases, public health researchers suggest adjustments to recently proposed rule changes on how Medicare pays for dialysis services.

Medicare spends approximately $35 billion annually on care for beneficiaries with end-stage renal disease (kidney failure), more than 7 percent of Medicare’s total paid claims. Over half a million people receive regular dialysis treatments to manage this condition, with treatment costs averaging about $85,000 a year, according to the study.

“A year ago, rule changes were proposed that would limit how many dialysis treatments per week Medicare would pay for,” says first author Dr. Adam S. Wilk. “Nephrologists, patients and other interest groups expressed concern that this would have the effect of limiting dialysis patients’ access to innovations in treatment, like ‘frequent hemodialysis,’ that have the potential to improve outcomes and quality of life in this population.” Dr. Wilk is assistant professor of health policy and management at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health.

In their article, Dr. Wilk and colleagues discussed the limitations of the current evidence on frequent dialysis treatment, which to date has yielded mixed conclusions. The researchers’ suggested changes to Medicare’s dialysis payment system were designed to account for these limitations and give Medicare the flexibility to further modify the system in the future as new evidence comes to light.

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