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August 30, 2013 at 11:29 AM
Working to protect patients
I share Dr. Singh’s concern about the upcoming Medicare payment reductions to dialysis facilities. [“Northwest Voices: Funding for dialysis treatments,” Opinion, seattletimes.com, Aug. 26.]
The policy was included as part of the January “fiscal cliff” package after Congress learned that the use of dialysis drugs had fallen sharply in the past five years. Medicare was instructed to reduce payments to dialysis facilities to prevent overpayment for drugs. This reduction was designed to cut the fat, but cuts shouldn’t hinder quality care. The nation’s 400,000 dialysis patients and their families depend on it.
I want to assure my constituents that I am very engaged in this issue. As the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, the co-chair of the Congressional Kidney Caucus and a physician, I have more than one dog in this fight. I have written to the Medicare agency both before and after it published the proposed rule, expressing my concerns about what this reduction could do to impede access to care, especially in inner-city and rural areas.
I believe that my colleagues in Congress, as well as the Medicare agency, want the dialysis program to continue to be a quality program. As the agency goes about finalizing the new payment rates, I will continue to work with the administrator, as well as with the patients and other stakeholders, to ensure continued access to a high-quality program.
Congressman Jim McDermott (WA-07), Washington, D.C.
August 26, 2013 at 6:56 AM
Protect kidney-failure patients
As a regional director for a major local dialysis provider, I contribute to the care of hundreds of kidney-failure patients daily.
This is a complicated lifesaving treatment, which we deliver on a clinically effective and highly cost efficient basis.
I am very concerned over a recent proposal by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that would cut Medicare reimbursement for dialysis care by as much as 12 percent.
Considering that Medicare reimbursement fails to cover the cost of dialysis currently, piling on more cuts would be devastating to the hundreds of thousands of patients on dialysis who depend on Medicare, and their caregivers.
The effects of these proposed cuts to dialysis care could force reductions in staffing levels, reduce access to additional services such as social workers, nurses or dietitians and, potentially, dramatically reduce access to dialysis care in Seattle altogether.
Clinics could be forced to close or consolidate, requiring patients who are often already very sick from a number of other comorbidities, to travel far distances for their life-sustaining care. Many may not attend on a regular basis and become much more sick over time, costing the health system far more in the long run.
It’s important for us all to recognize that, without ready access to dialysis care and ancillary services, patients with kidney failure will die. Contact our Congress member, Rep. Jim McDermott, and ask him to ensure that the CMS maintain appropriate funding to continue providing lifesaving care.
Robin Singh, regional operations manager of the Olympic View Dialysis Center, Davita HealthCare Partners Inc., Seattle
August 10, 2013 at 7:06 AM
Socialized medicine is a bad idea
These people who complain about medical costs are probably the same people that vote for amnesty. [“Northwest Voices: Hip-replacement costs,” Opinion, Aug. 8.]
When I lived in Yakima, a sign was posted in the lobby of the hospital. It said, if you were an undocumented Hispanic person, you didn’t need to pay your bill, because the hospital had a program for you. Wow!
Medicare and Medicaid pay so little that the hospitals go after those who have regular insurance.
Letter-writer Kate Elias should look into how long the wait is for a new hip when you have socialized health care.
Suzan Ellis, Renton
July 30, 2013 at 11:34 AM
Support the Medicare Drug Savings Act
Today, Medicare celebrates its 48th anniversary.
I have been a recipient of Medicare for 10 years. Over the years, I’ve been able to see how much it helps me (and millions of people like me), as well as identify areas where it could and should be strengthened to become even stronger.
One way in particular is the cost of prescription drugs. It’s difficult keeping up with out-of-pocket costs, which can be as high as $100 a month. At times, I’ve had to cut my food budget or pay half of another bill just to afford the medications I need. I shouldn’t have to choose between medicine and providing the most basic needs for my family.
I am urging our U.S. Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell to support the Medicare Drug Savings Act (S. 740). This legislation would prevent pharmaceutical companies from charging Medicare higher prices for certain prescription drugs than they charge Medicaid recipients.
This is the first step toward making prescription drugs more affordable for me and the millions of people who benefit from this invaluable program.
Gina Owens, Seattle
July 20, 2013 at 8:07 AM
Medicare for all
Froma Harrop is so right about a “Medicare for all” health plan. [“Column: Curse of the full-time job,” Opinion, July 16.]
Employers would be free to allow job-sharing, employees could choose part-time work, and a huge cause of labor strife would disappear.
Anne Thureson, Seattle
May 4, 2013 at 7:02 AM
Pharmaceutical companies are corrupt, people reluctant to speak out
The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003 is the American blueprint for massive government corruption [“Give Medicare the power to negotiate drug prices,” Opinion, May 2]. It was written specifically by big pharma and pushed by congressman-turned-big-pharma-lobbyist Billy Tauzin.
The bill immorally tied the hands of the largest purchaser on Earth (Medicare), preventing it from using its leverage to negotiate. Ask Costco or Wal-Mart Stores Inc. not to use their leverage for purchasing and they’ll rightly escort you to a padded room.
This high level of corruption is business as usual, forcing Americans to obey immoral laws that allow billions to be stolen by big pharma and their congressional friends. Given Wall Street’s control of Congress as well, to “render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s” is purely treasonous.
The only thing more damaging to the moral fiber of this country was the failure of good people to oppose the continuous lies and corruption. And you’ll be sure to see lots of news reports of a few welfare cheats because corporate theft of tax dollars is perfectly legal.
William McQuaid, Seattle
March 1, 2013 at 4:00 PM
Solutions for ‘unsustainable’ programs?
The Seattle Times editorial said that we must consider cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security because the aging of the population has made these programs unsustainable [“Avoid sequester gimmick,” Opinion, Feb. 22].
My question is: And what? We just let them die? Let them starve and turn them away from our doctors? A civilized society doesn’t do that.
It is absolutely idiotic the way long lists of solutions to our economic woes involve making us poorer. Hello. Anybody home?
–Harold R. Pettus, Everett
February 26, 2013 at 4:00 PM
Community involvement and standardization can reduce readmission
Thank you for highlighting Whatcom and Pierce counties’ important work to reduce readmissions [“Innovative steps keep patients out of hospital,” page one, Feb. 17]. Preventing avoidable readmissions is one focus of the Dr. Robert Bree Collaborative, a public-private consortium established in 2011 to improve quality and health outcomes in Washington.
The article highlighted one of two principles that the Bree Collaborative recently endorsed: Reducing readmissions requires a communitywide approach. Once patients are discharged, other providers in the community such as patients’ primary-care physicians must be actively engaged to ensure appropriate and coordinated follow-up care.
Standardization is the second key principle. Variation in discharge practices and policies contributes to the chaotic state of hospital discharges. Standardized practices and forms facilitate effective, coordinated handoffs between hospitals and community providers.
The Washington state Hospital and Medical Associations, Qualis Health, the Puget Sound Health Alliance and others are currently pilot testing a care-transitions tool kit. Although the tool kit is still in draft form, the Bree Collaborative believes that this effort emphasizes both of these principles. All of the organizations involved in this effort deserve recognition for their commitment to solving this vexing problem and achieving high-quality care for all Washingtonians.
–Steve Hill, chair, Dr. Robert Bree Collaborative, Seattle
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