Ask the Doctor
Questions about kidney disease? Risk factors? Signs and symptoms? Are you concerned about yourself, a friend or family member? Ask Dr. Spry.
February 20, 2002
On February 14, a bill to establish a Medicare-covered pre-dialysis education program was introduced by Rep. Phil Crane (R-IL). H.R. 3770 states that Medicare patients are eligible for up to six educational sessions to provide an overview of kidney function, a review of hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis options and information about transplantation. The introduction of this legislation has been one of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF)’s top public policy priorities and something for which NKF has strongly advocated. Each year, approximately 80,000 Americans develop chronic kidney failure, half of whom are Medicare-aged or Medicare-disabled before they start treatment and who would be entitled to these educational services made possible under the bill.
The six sessions can be in either a group or individual setting and will be presented by members of the kidney professional team, including nephrology social workers and transplant coordinators. In addition to reviewing the medical side of kidney failure and treatment options, the program also covers financial issues, such as payment for dialysis and medications and the role of Medicare and Medicaid. These benefits would begin when the individual’s glomerular filtration rate (GFR) is 30 or below.
“It is evident that patients need more education and direction about their treatment options before starting dialysis,” says John Davis, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation. “Currently, Medicare does not require education about treatment until the patient is already under the care of a dialysis clinic. Fewer than half of new kidney patients receive information before the complete loss of kidney function.”
H.R. 3770 also has the potential for Medicare savings. For example, complications with the vascular access are the leading cause of hospitalization among hemodialysis patients. Outcomes are improved if a permanent vascular access placement has been performed before dialysis is initiated. Educating patients on this option beforehand could prevent hospitalization.
After months of advocating for this legislation, the National Kidney Foundation will turn its efforts to recruiting co-sponsors for this bill.
The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to preventing kidney disease and urinary tract diseases, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.