Blacks Will Likely Be Negatively Affected by Proposed Medicare Reimbursement Change for Dialysis Treatment, Study Finds
Black dialysis patients might be negatively affected by proposed changes in Medicare reimbursement policy, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Reuters Health reports. CMS has proposed making one lump payment to cover both dialysis and injectable medications, instead of continuing to reimburse the procedures separately.
For the study, lead researcher Areef Ishani of the University of Minnesota and colleagues calculated the effect of the proposal on a representative cohort of 12,000 patients who started hemodialysis when they were age 67 or older. Researchers found that based on existing CMS data, blacks have lower initial levels of red blood cells than whites and require higher doses of epo-type drugs to achieve similar hemoglobin levels. As a result, blacks require on average 11% more epo per month than whites during the first two months on dialysis.
Researchers contend that because blacks required higher doses of the costly drugs, facilities might be biased against treating them, Reuters Health reports. The researchers concluded, "Costs of providing dialysis care could be higher than reimbursement rates, possibly creating a disincentive to treat [blacks], and thus difficulties gaining access to care" (Reuters Health, 4/30).
An abstract of the study is available online.