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Highlights

For most individuals with end-stage renal disease (ESRD), Medicare purchases a bundle of dialysis-related services using a single payment. In 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) plans to include in this bundled payment "oral-only" ESRD drugs used to treat mineral and bone disorder. Currently, Medicare generally pays for these drugs only if the beneficiary has Part D prescription drug coverage. This report (1) describes the rationales for including oral-only ESRD drugs in the bundled payment, (2) examines dialysis organizations' recent experience providing oral-only ESRD drugs and their future ability to provide these drugs, (3) examines the data sources that CMS could use to account for oral-only ESRD drugs in the bundled payment, and (4) examines CMS's ability to monitor treatment of mineral and bone disorder. GAO interviewed CMS officials, experts in mineral and bone disorder, and representatives of 4 large and 16 small dialysis organizations. GAO also reviewed ESRD payment regulations, related reports, clinical guidelines, and state pharmacy licensure requirements in 10 selected states.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 1. To help ensure that Medicare beneficiaries have access to high-quality dialysis care, the Administrator of CMS should assess the extent to which the bundled payment for dialysis care will be sufficient to cover an efficient dialysis organization's costs to provide such care when the bundled payment expands to cover oral-only ESRD drugs. The Administrator should conduct this assessment before implementing this expanded bundled payment.
Open
CMS, as required by the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 (PAMA), delayed until 2024 when the bundled payment for dialysis care is expanded to cover oral-only ESRD drugs. Because PAMA requires CMS to use the most recent year of data available to implement this payment change, CMS has been unable to implement our recommendation. We will update the status of this recommendation upon receipt of additional information from CMS.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services 2. In order to ensure effective monitoring of treatment of mineral and bone disorder, the Administrator of CMS should continue collecting data for quality measures related to this condition from sources such as the Elab Project until CROWNWeb is fully implemented and concerns about its data reliability have been adequately addressed.
Closed - Not Implemented
CMS did not implement this recommendation, but it has been closed because it is no longer applicable. CROWNWeb was implemented nationally in 2012. In 2013, CMS discontinued the collection of data through the Elab Project for quality measures related to mineral and bone disorder even though CROWNWeb data reliability issues persisted. To assess the accuracy of CROWNWeb data, CMS awarded the Data Reliability and Validation contract in 2013. Because CROWNWeb data reliability has improved since then, collecting data from an alternate source is no longer necessary.

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