Congress is pulling an about face on drug payments to dialysis clinics, with more than 100 lawmakers pushing the White House to reverse or water down cuts the Obama administration was ordered to make in January.
Behind the reversal is a heavy lobbying campaign by the dialysis industry, including top companies DaVita Healthcare Partners of Denver and Germany-based Fresenius. Both companies have seen a rise in profits since 2011, when the government first started making more than $500 million a year in excessive payments to dialysis clinics nationwide, reports The New York Times
Before then, the government paid clinics for each dosage of Epogen, an expensive anti-anemia drug, leading to accusations that clinics were overusing the drug. After adopting a flat fee for dialysis, the use of the drug plummeted, while the companies' earnings margins rose
, prompting Congress to order a cut in the drug fee.
Industry lobbyists have argued that the potential cut of $29.52 per patient visit from the previously planned $246 reimbursement for next year would force them to close or cut back on services at some of the more than 5,000 dialysis centers across the country, according to the Times.
They have reportedly met this summer with dozens of members of Congress and their staffs as well as top White House officials, including Chris Dawe, a senior policy adviser for health care, urging them to pressure the Department of Health and Human Services and its Medicare division to back down on the planned cut.
Earlier this month, 205 members of the House, led by Democratic Reps. Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico and John Lewis of Georgia, as well as GOP Reps. Diane Black of Tennessee and John Shimkus of Illinois, signed a letter to the Medicare administrator
asking her to reconsider the proposed cut. Half of the lawmakers who signed the letter voted in favor of the cut in January.
The Department of Health and Human Services must issue a final rule by Nov. 1. A department spokeswoman said in a statement, "We do our best to address the concerns raised."
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