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Open Access Research article

Red blood cell (RBC) transfusion rates among US chronic dialysis patients during changes to Medicare end-stage renal disease (ESRD) reimbursement systems and erythropoiesis stimulating agent (ESA) labels

Katherine A Cappell1*, Sanatan Shreay2, Zhun Cao1, Helen V Varker1, Carly J Paoli2 and Matthew Gitlin2

Author Affiliations

1 Truven Health Analytics, 777 East Eisenhower Parkway, Ann Arbor, MI 48108, USA

2 Amgen, Thousand Oaks, CA, USA

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BMC Nephrology 2014, 15:116  doi:10.1186/1471-2369-15-116

Published: 11 July 2014

Abstract

Background

Several major ESRD-related regulatory and reimbursement changes were introduced in the United States in 2011. In several large, national datasets, these changes have been associated with decreases in erythropoiesis stimulating agent (ESA) utilization and hemoglobin concentrations in the ESRD population, as well as an increase in the use of red blood cell (RBC) transfusions in this population. Our objective was to examine the use of RBC transfusion before and after the regulatory and reimbursement changes implemented in 2011 in a prevalent population of chronic dialysis patients in a large national claims database.

Methods

Patients in the Truven Health MarketScan Commercial and Medicare Databases with evidence of chronic dialysis were selected for the study. The proportion of chronic dialysis patients who received any RBC transfusion and RBC transfusion event rates per 100 patient-months were calculated in each month from January 1, 2007 to March 31, 2012. The results were analyzed overall and stratified by primary health insurance payer (commercial payer or Medicare).

Results

Overall, the percent of chronic dialysis patients with RBC transfusion and RBC transfusion event rates per 100 patient-months increased between January 2007 and March 2012. When stratified by primary health insurance payer, it appears that the increase was driven by the primary Medicare insurance population. While the percent of patients with RBC transfusion and RBC transfusion event rates did not increase in the commercially insured population between 2007 and 2012 they did increase in the primary Medicare insurance population; the majority of the increase occurred in 2011 during the same time frame as the ESRD-related regulatory and reimbursement changes.

Conclusions

The regulatory and reimbursement changes implemented in 2011 may have contributed to an increase in the use of RBC transfusions in chronic dialysis patients in the MarketScan dataset who were covered by Medicare plus Medicare supplemental insurance.

Keywords:
Transfusion; Chronic dialysis; Medicare prospective payment system; End-stage renal disease; Erythropoiesis stimulating agent