Thursday, October 02, 2003

Article in todays Wall Street Journal (requires subscription) about the expanding costs of renal dialysis in the U.S. Currently all dialysis patients are covered under Medicare. Dialysis access is a good portion of the practice at Acme Surgical Corp., and one of the few (if not the only) reason we participate in Medicare. Some of the data presented in the story were pretty amazing:
Costs of dialysis has risen from about $5 billion in 1991 to $15 billion in 2001
One percent of Medicare enrollees are on dialysis, but they account for six percent of expenditures.
In 2001 292,000 people on dialysis and 114,000 with transplants.
(Doing the math that comes to $51,000 per patient per year for dialysis, $37,000 per patient per year if you include the transplants)
Five year life expectancies:
Breast cancer 86%
Heart transplant 71%
Renal dialysis 34%
Pancreatic cancer 4%
I'm not surprised by that number, but agree with the conclusion in the article that, for the most part, dialysis patients have little idea how sick they are.
The figures above reveal the large sums associated with this dialysis. Dialysis rationing always comes up when discussion of a single payer system comes up. Those systems frequently use age as a determining factor as to allow dialysis or not. Given the rising age of dialysis patients in the United States, is that something we would be willing to use to determine care?
Loads of information on dialysis may be found here.
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