Kansans are leading the charge to decrease waiting times for dialysis provider accreditation.
U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts introduced the legislation Thursday. U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins, of Kansas’ 2nd District, had earlier introduced companion legislation in the House that passed unanimously as part of a broader Medicare package.
The Dialysis Access Improvement Act would allow dialysis providers to be accredited from organizations approved by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Currently, dialysis providers are the only group of Medicare-funded providers that cannot be accredited by independent organizations.
“That has led to an incredible backlog of certifications,” said Cameron Lynch, senior vice president for Fresenius Medical Care. “We have clinics, an industrywide issue, that have been built that have waited for two years to be surveyed. They just sit there empty. Patients can’t go there, employees can’t work there.”
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There are 31 Fresenius dialysis centers in Kansas, with a total of 1,166 patients.
Lynch, who is originally from Kansas, said the ability to certify more clinics is especially important for a rural state like Kansas. Dialysis patients usually spend three to four hours in dialysis at least several times each week. Adding a long drive makes it especially difficult.
“A facility is a very important place for a patient because they spend so much time there,” Lynch said.
Medicare coverage is extended to anyone who requires dialysis in order to live and meets certain other requirements. This means that more than 90 percent of Americans with kidney failure have Medicare
Roberts, who presented the bill alongside Sen. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, said in a statement that the legislation would give dialysis patients more convenient, accessible options for treatment.
Dialysis patients “typically visit these facilities several times a week to receive this critical treatment, but often have to travel extensive distances, particularly in rural areas,” Roberts said. “Our bill would make it easier for facilities to be approved under Medicare so patients have more convenient, accessible options for treatment.”
Jenkins tweeted Thursday that Kansas has among the top three longest wait times for dialysis center surveys.
“This is a great step in providing independent third party accreditation for dialysis centers,” she said in a statement. “This commonsense change will help curb bureaucracy in our healthcare to ensure folks on dialysis can get the care they need close to home.”