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Timothy Gassmann, Published April 30 2010

Dialysis patients object to changes

Ten years ago, I was diagnosed with kidney failure. In order to survive, I must receive dialysis treatment three times a week for three to four hours at a time to cleanse my blood of fatal toxins.

In implementing legislation passed by Congress in 2008 called the “Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act,” federal officials are proposing to include the cost of certain oral drugs in a single lump- sum payment that dialysis facilities receive for my care. Including these oral drugs in the so-called “bundled” payment will increase my co-payments and may undercut my access to the oral drugs I need.

Medicare covers the overwhelming majority of the costs of my dialysis, but I now fear my personal costs will increase significantly as a result of a proposed regulation that is soon to be finalized by the federal government.

My greatest concern is that the proposed payment structure is not based on research and reliable data about the cost of oral drugs, but rather government guesses. I am deeply concerned about the impact on me and other patients if the government’s guesses are wrong.

Reform of the dialysis benefit – along with all of health care – may make sense, but government officials must not risk doing harm to patients in the process. Reforming the benefit for dialysis patients to include oral drugs would amount to an experiment on some of the most vulnerable Medicare beneficiaries – those of us suffering from kidney failure.