By Carrie L., Director of Congressional and State Relations

Well, we went over the fiscal cliff. And then, just hours later a deal was struck, a few hours late but a deal to bring us back from the brink nonetheless. The 112th Congress concluded its tumultuous, and gridlocked 2 years by passing a deal to avoid massive tax hikes for the middle class and a 27% decrease in payments to Medicare providers on New Year’s Day. Unfortunately, cuts to the Medicare ESRD program were still included in the fiscal cliff package. The deal calls on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to reduce the bundled payment rate for dialysis services to reflect the recent changes in the use of certain medications over the past several years. The bundled payment rate will be “rebased” to more accurately reflect the changes in drug usage and drug prices starting in 2014. Additionally, the inclusion of oral-only medications in the bundle will be delayed until January 1, 2016.

Oral medications were scheduled to roll into the bundle for payment on January 1, 2014. This delay gives DPC and the kidney community more time to ensure that the inclusion of these medications is done appropriately and in the best interest of patients. The government estimates the savings from rebasing will reach $4.9 billion over the next 10 years. A further $300 million in cuts were made to Medicare payments for non-emergency ambulatory transportation for ESRD patients to dialysis facilities.

So comes to a close the term of the 112th Congress. DPC will continue its work with the 113th Congress and with CMS to make sure that dialysis patients and their benefits are not harmed by these or any cuts and to ensure that patients have access to the highest quality care possible. Here’s hoping the 113th Congress has a better go!