Nation's Minority Congressional Caucuses Join Bipartisan Members of Senate, House Expressing Concern Over Integrity of Medicare's Dialysis Benefit

Congressional Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus and Asian-Pacific American Caucus Leaders Urge CMS to Consider Disproportionate Effect of Cuts to Dialysis Benefit on Ethnic Communities

Jun 20, 2013, 13:48 ET from Kidney Care Partners

WASHINGTON, June 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Leaders of the Congressional "Tri-Caucus," comprising of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC), the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), today issued a letter to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner reiterating that ESRD {End Stage Renal Disease, or kidney failure} disproportionately affects racial and ethnic minorities and expressing concern that "changes to the Medicare program can potentially  have dramatic, disproportionate and detrimental impacts on these communities." 

"More than half of all dialysis patients are racial and ethnic minorities and most have compromised health statuses," according to the Tri-Caucus. The Tri-Caucus raised concerns that a "narrow review of dialysis facility economics on only one or two inputs would not capture the provider's true costs, and could lead to center closure, consolidations, and reduced treatment options."

Further, the Tri-Caucus outlined their collective concerns about the impact payment changes could have on racial and ethnic Medicare beneficiaries:

The racial and ethnic, geographic and socio-economic disparities in ESRD care, treatment and outcomes that we have worked so diligently to reduce and eliminate would be exacerbated, leaving millions of Americans in poorer health.

Kidney Care Partners, representing the broader kidney care community, applauded the Congressional Tri-Caucus for their leadership and attention to this important issue facing vulnerable members of their communities if the stability of Medicare's ESRD benefit is compromised. 

Kidney Care Partners Chairman Ron Kuerbitz said, "The kidney care community is both thankful and encouraged by the strong Tri-Caucus message. Protecting our nation's ethnic minorities who rely on dialysis and maintaining the stability of the current payment system is crucial, and we commend the Caucuses for their leadership and support on this very important issue."

More than 80 percent of people with kidney failure, regardless of their age, rely on Medicare to pay for their dialysis.  Because of patients' heavy reliance on Medicare, the program's payments must cover the cost of treatments, which typically are needed three times a week for approximately four hours per treatment.

The Tri-Caucus letter comes on the heels of letters from 17 Senators, the House Ways and Means Chair and Ranking Minority Member and an appeal from the nation's four leading dialysis patient advocacy organizations, who previously urged CMS to avoid Medicare changes that could jeopardize access to treatments for individuals with kidney failure, including a host of ancillary dialysis-related services.

As part of the fiscal cliff package (American Taxpayer Relief Act, or "ATRA") enacted earlier this year, Congress required CMS to adjust Medicare's new "bundled" payment system for dialysis services and medications.  In their letter to CMS, the 17 Senators emphasized statutory obligations that require the Agency to ensure that Medicare funding for life-sustaining dialysis "should not reduce payments to a level less than the cost of providing care."

Finally, the Tri-Caucus called on the HHS Secretary and the CMS Director to "ensure that the final payment rate for 2014 adequately reimburses providers, and, most importantly, protects access to the highest quality care."

Kidney Care Partners is a community-wide coalition of patient advocates, dialysis professionals, researchers, care providers and manufacturers dedicated to working together to improve quality of care for individuals with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).

SOURCE Kidney Care Partners