Medicare cuts could hurt Alabama dialysis patients - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Medicare cuts could hurt AL dialysis patients

"This is their lifeline," says Madeline Lewis who is a dialysis patient. "This is their lifeline," says Madeline Lewis who is a dialysis patient.

There are more than 10,500 people in Alabama that suffer with kidney disease and about 8,000 of them receive dialysis treatments. Since Medicare covers the cost for the vast majority of those on dialysis, possible cuts to Medicare in the coming months are worrisome to both patients and healthcare providers.

"This is their lifeline," said Madeline Lewis, a dialysis patient herself who receives partial coverage from Medicare. "I'm one of the lucky ones. I have private insurance to help me, but those others need as much help as they can get."

Lewis dialyzes herself every night at around 9PM, right before she goes to bed. "I have to give the machine enough time so when I wake up in the morning, it's done, so then I can get dressed and go to work."

The proposed cuts are the result of recent spending deals in Washington. Congress voted to improve efficiency within the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The Centers for Disease Control recommended a cut in the range 5% but policymakers are also mulling over a cut as high as 10% according to multiple media reports.

Healthcare providers say for all dialysis patients, especially those that visit clinics and dialysis centers could be the most at risk if proposed cuts to Medicaid go through.

"It could be devastating for many of them" said Jennifer Carter, the Director of Operations for the Fresenius Medical Care Center in Montgomery. Fresenius is one of the largest dialysis providers in the world. "My concern right now is any kind of cuts we have to make could reduce dialysis services and force clinic closures when kidney disease is escalating right now."

The cuts to Medicare would not just be isolated to the procedures themselves. The trickle-down effect could be substantial. If the out-of-pocket cost goes up for patients, then they will have less money to pay for transportation for them to receive their treatments.

Carter with Fresenius said, "For some of our patients who are chronically ill to have to accept reduced care or travel long distances for dialysis care which could be a hardship on them."

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is expected to make a decision on the proposed cuts in November. 

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