Northwest Kidney Centers periodically takes a position on legislation before Congress. Recently, for example, we opposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act without maintaining expanded Medicaid, as that entitlement directly benefits people with kidney disease.
Rarely do we appeal to our community of supporters to engage in public policy advocacy. But now is one of those times. We are asking you to take action by sending an email to Congress opposing the proposed Dialysis PATIENTS Demonstration Act, H.R. 4143 / S. 2065.
We believe the proposed Dialysis PATIENTS Demonstration Act will create barriers for patient care. The big companies are hopping mad about our opposition. Among them is Fresenius, a multinational corporation 100 times the size of Northwest Kidney Centers. Fresenius said in a letter to Congress, “Please don’t allow a small minority in our industry to get in the way.”
See Northwest Kidney Centers’ letter to Congressional members leading the bill in the Senate and our letter to their counterparts in the House of Representatives.
Here’s why we oppose this bill:
- We believe in choice, and this bill limits patient choice. Medicare ESRD patients will be enrolled involuntarily for insurance in this capitation demonstration project. To leave, they must opt out within 75 days or be locked in for one year.
During the stressful time when they are coping with a new ESRD diagnosis, patients should not be given another complex decision involving opting out of a new kind of insurance. In the existing system, people with kidney failure have Medicare insurance (primary coverage for 75 percent of our patients), and they select a dialysis clinic due to geography, their doctor’s preference or available space. In the proposed system under the PATIENTS act, failing to opt out may force them into an HMO run by a big dialysis company, which will direct all care within its own contracted network of hospitals and doctors. We believe kidney disease patients, like all other patients, should be able to elect coverage that best meets their needs.
- The bill will cause further consolidation in an industry where already just two for-profit corporations provide dialysis care to over 70 percent of patients nationwide.
To participate in this demonstration, a dialysis provider must bear the insurance risk for each person enrolled—an average of $80,000+ per year for a dialysis patient’s services from hospital, doctor, nursing home and dialysis clinic. Many small and mid-sized dialysis organizations will not be able to become an insurance entity or partner with one. So, over time, the bill could eliminate the role of regional, independent, nonprofit, community-based dialysis providers—members of the industry most likely to provide innovative, patient-centered, high quality care.
- The demonstration doesn’t allow providers to care for kidney patients through their entire journey, as it doesn’t cover hospice, palliative care or transplantation care.
Please learn more from the Independent Kidney Care website sponsored by nonprofit providers including Northwest Kidney Centers. Join us in opposition. The site makes it easy to write a message to Congress explaining why you believe patient choice is so important and why the Dialysis PATIENTS Demonstration Act should not be passed.