End-Stage Renal Disease: CMS Should Monitor Effect of Bundled Payment on Home Dialysis Utilization Rates

GAO-09-537 Published: May 22, 2009. Publicly Released: May 22, 2009.
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Highlights

Medicare covers dialysis--a process that removes excess fluids and toxins from the bloodstream--for most individuals with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), a condition of permanent kidney failure. Most patients with ESRD receive dialysis in a facility, while some patients with ESRD are trained to self-perform dialysis in their homes. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)--the agency that administers the Medicare program--has taken steps to encourage home dialysis and is in the process of changing the way it pays for dialysis services. Effective 2011, CMS will pay for dialysis services using an expanded bundled payment. The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006 required GAO to report on the costs of home dialysis treatments and training. GAO examined (1) the extent to which the costs of home dialysis differ from the costs of dialysis received in a facility, and (2) CMS's plans to account for home dialysis costs in the expanded bundled payment. GAO obtained information from CMS, the U.S. Renal Data System, ESRD experts, and self-reported cost information from six dialysis providers.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services To determine the effect of the expanded bundled payment system on home dialysis utilization rates, CMS should establish and implement a formal plan to monitor the expanded bundled payment system's effect on home dialysis utilization rates to determine whether home dialysis utilization rates have increased as CMS expects.
Closed – Implemented
Only July 1, 2013, CMS reported to us that it had established and implemented a monitoring system to review home dialysis utilization rates.

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