KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Dialysis Patients Often Not Told About Transplant Options, Newspaper Reports

"Thousands of kidney patients in the United States start dialysis without first being told of kidney transplants that would be cheaper and lead to longer lives, according to a four-month newspaper investigation published Sunday," The Associated Press reports.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reviewed U.S. Renal Data System records and "found that some patients spend five years receiving debilitating dialysis treatments before they're put on the nation's kidney transplant list, while others who could benefit from transplants never make the list." The newspaper also reported that the transplants can "add an average of 10 years to a patient's life" while costing Medicare "about $50,000 less than treating a patient using dialysis." But the newspaper found "the biggest dialysis providers need large numbers of patients covered by insurance to offset lower payments the providers get for dialysis from Medicare. ... The newspaper found that 32,000 of nearly 106,000 people who started treatment for kidney failure in 2006 weren't told about the option of a transplant, according to the latest information from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services" (9/27).

In its article, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports: "Many factors can contribute to the lack of transplant referrals, said Dr. Herwig-Ulf Meier-Kriesche, medical director of Renal Transplant at the University of Florida's Department of Medicine. ... The dominance of dialysis over other kidney disease treatments occurs at a time when lawmakers are engaged in a fierce debate over how to restrain soaring health care spending. Patients with chronic kidney disease and kidney failure account for one of every five Medicare dollars as the program careens toward insolvency" (Conte and Fabregas, 9/27).

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