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Stabenow Warns Of Shift in Kidney Disease Costs

A little-known provision in a health care bill might shift millions of dollars in costs onto private health care plans run by Michigan companies, for instance, General Motors Corp. for people with kidney disease.

Under present law, patients on private health care plans have to wait 33 months prior to receiving care for end-stage kidney disease; however, a bill passed by the House would extend that period by 12 months.

Business and labor groups calculate approximately that the changes would cost them around $3.5 billion above 10 years. GM said it would cost them about $70 million more a year.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, said the extension of the waiting period would merely shift costs and raise them without improving the Medicare system. She said that it might complicate the agreement reached by the United Auto Workers union and GM that would establish a union-run, company-funded trust to cover retiree health care.

Stabenow said, "This is not the time for us to be shifting tens of millions of dollars more onto private employer health care."

Patients with kidney disease lose the ability to filter waste out of the bloodstream. Around 400,000 people develop end-stage kidney failure, which requires dialysis or a transplant to survive.

Dialysis for employer group health care plans in general cost between $125,000 and $180,000 a year for each person.

Dr. Edward Jones, a nephrologist and chairperson of the Kidney Care Partners coalition, said the changes would have a slight effect on large employer premiums while striking a good balance between the present law and proposed extensions of up to five years.

Jones said in a statement, "Despite what some large corporations are saying, this extension impacts a modest number of patients spread across a much larger population and would be a huge benefit to patients and the Medicare benefit."



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