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More Achieved in 2020 to Improve Kidney Care Than in Decades

Since the Department of Health and Human Services announced the Administration’s initiative to advance American kidney health in July 2019, we have delivered more tangible action to improve the lives of American kidney patients than we’ve seen in the past several decades — combined.

Government rules should not stand in the way of a treatment or choice that you and your doctor agree makes the most sense for you. But under the kidney care status quo, antiquated rules and misguided government incentives had, for too long, stood in the way of treatments that a patient and his or her doctor may agree makes sense.

Last week, we took several major steps forward in our effort to advance American kidney health, and deliver on the President’s overarching healthcare vision: an affordable, patient-centered system that puts you, the patient, in control — and treats you like a person, not just a number.

First, we finalized a new mandatory Medicare model that will enroll about one-third of traditional Medicare beneficiaries with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) — about 120,000 patients — in a system that rewards more convenient, comfortable options like home dialysis. Significantly, it incentivizes rather than discourages transplants.

Second, through the Health Resources and Services Administration, we significantly expanded support for living organ donation to include compensation for lost wages, child care, and elder care. It’s just common sense: no generous, compassionate American who wants to save a life with a kidney donation should face barriers to doing so.

Moreover, we are exploring more effective ways for modern IT systems to manage allocating organs, and handling patient and donor data on a national scale. We’ve announced new organ donation guidelines for donors with HIV and hepatitis B and C using scientific advances to begin allowing donations that previously would not have been possible. This is yet another transformative step forward in maximizing life-saving organ transplants.

It is no accident we have placed an enormous focus on kidney health. For one, center-based dialysis is one of the most draining procedures there is in modern medicine. Hundreds of thousands of American patients could benefit from better, more convenient options. Americans with kidney disease represent more than one in five dollars spent in traditional Medicare, and we should have better outcomes to show for it – for patients and taxpayers.

When Secretary Azar detailed his vision for the needed value-based transformation of American healthcare two and a half years ago, he said we would use bold new Medicare models to move us toward a system that pays for actual patient outcomes – not just more fee-for-service procedures.

We have now launched such models in primary care, emergency transport, oncology, and kidney care. We have also delivered on the other key components of the value based care plan we advanced: price transparency, interoperability, and regulatory reform.

Cumulatively, these actions will keep the patient at the center of their own care, and empower consumers with treatment options that improve their overall health outcomes, while saving healthcare dollars. Best of all, these reforms will significantly benefit Americans’ health in the years and decades to come.