We are disappointed that CMS’ recently proposed rules again miss a clear opportunity to address home hemodialysis access for Medicare patients.
Recent clinical research demonstrates the significant benefits of more frequent dialysis. Better clinical outcomes, lower mortality, and higher survival – the list goes on. Recognizing the strength of this data (and heeding the calls of numerous patient advocates), large national commercial insurers, including UnitedHealthcare and Aetna, recently clarified their policies, granting greater access to home, and more frequent, hemodialysis for commercial patients.
In recent weeks, CMS’ proposed rules for both Physician Fee Schedule and ESRD PPS Rule came out. In the proposed Physician Fee Schedule, physician payment will increase for in-center dialysis, but will remain essentially unchanged for home dialysis. Physicians are already paid generally 20% less to care for their home dialysis patients, and under the proposed rule for physician payment this disparity would grow. In the proposed ESRD PPS Rule, there were no mentions of home hemodialysis. None. In the rule, CMS proposes a 2.5% increase to the bundled payment rate, representing hundreds of millions dollars of additional money going to the Medicare dialysis program. None of this increase is going to address the known payment issues impacting access to more frequent home hemodialysis.
I’ve been saying it for years (and in 3D and Technicolor in my new book Healthcare Beyond Reform): The Standard Model of Healthcare (the traditional unmodified fee-for-service, commodified, defined-benefit payment system) is broken and doomed. It’s fascinating to hear that even the CEO of Aetna, Mark Bertolini, said exactly that recently at a major healthcare technology conference — and that Forbes, a bastion of business and the private approach to everything, would publish an article on his remarks.
At Health 2.0 last fall, Bertolini said that he no longer thinks of Aetna as an insurance company, but primarily as an information company. This time, he made these main points:
Today’s headline was “Millions Expected To Receive Insurance Rebates Totaling $1.3 Billion.”
The Kaiser Family Foundation estimates that 3.4 million people in the individual market will receive $426 million in consumer rebates because of the Affordable Care Act’s new MLR rules. In the small group market 4.9 million enrollees will see $377 million in rebates, and 7.5 million people will get $540 million in the large group market.
But take a closer look at the report. Only 19% of those in the large group market will be getting a rebate and that rebate will average $72.31 per person. In the small group market 28% of those enrolled in these plans will get a rebate averaging $76.37. And, in the individual market 31% of consumers who have these plans will get a rebate averaging $126.81.
The Wall Street Journal, citing a Goldman analysis, is reporting that Aetna will be paying out $177 million in rebates. But Aetna has $11 billion in premium so that’s only a 1.6% rebate. UnitedHealth will be paying out $307 billion but that is only 1% of its $28.8 billion in premium. Wellpoint will pay out $94 million in rebates but that is only .28% of its premium for the year.
The average cost of employer-provided family health insurance is now about $13,000 per year. A family rebate of perhaps $200 will amount to only about 1.5% of premium for the relatively few people who will even get one.