On July 25, the House of Representatives passed by voice vote H.R. 3178, the Medicare Part B Improvement Act of 2017. This legislation contains several targeted changes to Medicare Part B, including two provisions that would affect dialysis patients.
One provision would allow dialysis facilities to use independent accreditation agencies approved by the Secretary, and would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to conduct surveys and reviews on accrediting agencies and dialysis providers. Currently, in some areas of the country there is a backlog of facilities awaiting accreditation, but unlike hospitals, dialysis facilities cannot use third-party accreditors. By allowing the use of HHS approved third-party accreditors, this provision would help ensure kidney disease patients, particularly in rural communities, have access to dialysis treatments in a timely manner.
The second provision would expand the use of telehealth for Medicare beneficiaries with ESRD who receive home dialysis. Specifically, it would allow free standing dialysis facilities and a patient’s home to be originating sites for monthly telehealth clinical assessments, and would eliminate geographic restrictions that currently prohibit patients in non-rural areas from using telehealth for clinical assessments. This provision would create an additional at-home option for patients to maintain their access to care.