Funding cuts could impact care of kidney patients

In honor of World Kidney Day on March 14, I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., to talk to members of Congress about an issue that I face every day – providing quality dialysis care for patients with kidney failure.

Providers from across the nation face this same important task as more than 30 million Americans are living with kidney disease, and more than half a million with kidney failure (also known as End Stage Renal Disease or ESRD). Members of Congress, including our own senators, Sherrod Brown and Rob Portman, and Rep. Bill Johnson, play an important role in ensuring access to this life-sustaining treatment.

Kidney care providers and dialysis facilities have made tremendous strides over the past few years in improving health outcomes, even despite reductions in federal funding. The health care team at Marietta Dialysis helps patients feel better and manages their conditions more effectively. Good care not only improves lives, it also decreases complications, hospitalizations and mortality translating to reduced health care costs overall.

Unfortunately, I’m concerned about impending funding cuts that would possibly reverse all of the good progress we’ve made. Recent cuts to Medicare by Congress will slash reimbursements for dialysis treatments, impacting the level of care our centers will be able to provide. Changes to the “bundled” payments, by which dialysis providers are paid for the multitude of services they provide, could also have a negative impact.

My visit to Washington, D.C., allowed me to share these concerns with members of Congress and their staffs and encourage them to ensure adequate payments for dialysis so hundreds of thousands of Americans can continue to receive quality dialysis care. By seeking an alternative to these cuts, and by improving other policies – like helping transplant patients afford immunosuppressive drugs – we can continue helping patients live healthier lives, and hopefully help other Americans avoid kidney disease altogether.

I hope your readers will urge senators Brown and Portman and Rep. Johnson to protect patient access and our ability to deliver quality kidney care.

Melanie Bertram, registered dietitian

DaVita Dialysis Marietta