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Phil Heuer, Fargo , Published March 02 2013

Letter: Kidney disease therapies at risk

Kidney disease hits one in 10 Americans – neighbors and loved ones who, without dialysis or a kidney transplant, will not survive. During the month of March – National Kidney Month – let us consider the far-reaching effects of this disease and what we can do to protect this vulnerable patient population.

As a facility administrator at DaVita’s Fargo Dialysis Center, I care for approximately 60 dialysis patients, more than 80 percent of whom depend on Medicare for this life-sustaining treatment. So as policymakers in Washington consider budget cuts and enact a 2 percent “sequestration” cut, they, too, must consider the devastating effect these cuts will have on the care available to my vulnerable kidney-failure patients.

The Medicare system is still adjusting to 2011, 2012 and 2013 changes and cuts and doesn’t cover the full cost of patients’ dialysis treatments. With additional cuts, I fear facilities in the Fargo area could be forced to close their doors, forcing patients to travel long distances to receive care; dialyze at a hospital emergency room, which costs the system more; or forgo some necessary care altogether.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., and Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., recently visited our dialysis facility, and we appreciate them taking the time to learn more about the vital services we provide and the effects additional cuts might have on our patients. I encourage readers to contact Heitkamp and Cramer to urge them and their fellow lawmakers to protect our patients in Fargo who rely on dialysis care.

Heuer is with DaVita Dialysis, Fargo.