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CMS puts dialysis center rating system on hold

September 10, 2014
by Lois A. Bowers, Senior Editor
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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has delayed until January implementation of a five-star rating system for dialysis centers similar to the one already used for nursing homes. The original launch date was to be Oct. 1.

The federal agency announced that it needed more time to education the general public about how to use the system to make treatment decisions, but a coalition of patient advocates, dialysis professionals, care providers and manufacturers says that time alone will not address its concerns.

“No amount of patient education will fix what's broken in the Dialysis Five-Star Program, and by changing the implementation date, CMS has done little more than kick the can down the road,” Edward Jones, Kidney Care Partners coalition chairman, said in a statement to the media. “Instead of simply changing the implementation date, CMS should start over and develop a rating system that is based on accurate data and an evidence-based methodology.”

Advocates, organizations representing healthcare professionals, dialysis providers and policymakers have raised concerns (PDF) about the system, including potential redundancies with current offerings. “As [the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission] noted, the Medicare [end stage renal disease] program already has an existing, fully transparent quality program mandated by Congress, called the Quality [Incentive] Program (QIP). This program provides publicly available quality information at the facility level,” Jones said.

“We urge CMS leaders to work closely with the kidney care community to find an alternative to the current forced ‘bell curve’ methodology,” he continued. “We also urge the agency to work with us to ensure that the quality measures included in the program lead to public information about dialysis that is accurate, evidence-based, useful and understandable for patients and the general public.”

CMS is planning to launch ratings of home health providers in 2015 but has not announced a precise implementation date.