As a dialysis professional, I have oversight for some of the sickest patients in our community. That's why I'm worried about budget cuts announced on July 1. The severe Medicare cuts could reduce dialysis services and force clinic closures at a time when kidney disease is escalating. It's heartbreaking and unjust to make critically ill people accept reduced care or travel longer distances for lifesaving dialysis.
Kidney disease affects one in seven Americans and is the eighth-leading cause of U.S. death. As the disease progresses to kidney failure, individuals must seek transplantation (which is uncommon) or go for dialysis three times a week to stay alive. There are 15,766 Ohio residents with kidney failure as of July 31, and there were 14,025 Ohio residents with kidney failure on Dec. 31, 2008. These numbers show a steady rise in chronic renal failure over the last five years.
Dialysis is a lifeline to survival, and Medicare covers the cost of dialysis, regardless of age. Ninety percent of our patients are Medicare beneficiaries. Dialysis providers know that fiscal challenges require doing more with less. We recently adopted cost-effective payment system changes, but new Medicare cuts could undermine this progress. Congress must protect people with kidney failure. My chronically ill patients need access to lifesaving dialysis care.
Gayle A. Mascarella, R.N. Clinic Manager
ARA Boardman Dialysis