Wenstrup visits G’town

Published by News Democrat
March 18, 2015

The DaVita Dialysis Center in Georgetown welcomed U.S. Representative Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) to discuss a bill that is aimed to improve healthcare options for patients suffering from chronic kidney disease.

The bill, named H.R. 1130, is currently assigned to the House Energy and Commerce and House Ways and Means committees, where it will go up to a vote before landing on the House of Representatives floor. Representative Tom Marino (R-PA) sponsored the bill, and DaVita was asking for Wenstrup’s support and backing of the bill.

Representative Wenstrup, Georgetown Mayor Dale Cahall, and facility administrator Mary Beth Shepherd toured the Georgetown facility and spoke with dialysis patients, as well as saw the infrastructure behind their dialysis center that allows them to have a six-day schedule. The Georgetown dialysis center recently moved to a six-day schedule so that they could accommodate their patient load.

Patients on dialysis likely have diabetes, hypertension or high-blood pressure, and kidney failure, or all three. Dialysis patients must have their blood treated three times a week for approximately four hours per treatment, because their own kidneys are not cleaning and filtering their blood as they should be. The National Kidney Foundation claims on their website that 26 million adults in the U.S. have chronic kidney disease.

According to David Gelter, the Group Facility Administrator for Thoroughbreds Region 1, the reason for the bill is because facilities like the Georgetown one are struggling to keep their doors open under Medicare alone.

“Right now, dialysis patients cannot participate in Medicare advantage,” Gelter told Wenstrup. “If we just take care of Medicare patients, which is over 80 percent of our population, we lose money.”

Medicare Advantage is, according to Healthcare.gov, “a type of Medicare health plan offered by a private company that contracts with Medicare to provide you with all your Part A and Part B benefits.” In other words, as Cahall explained during the meeting, the government will pay a private healthcare company to provide healthcare options for medicare-eligible patients.

“We think what (the bill) will do, it may not necessarily pay us better, but what it will do for our patients is our patients won’t have the co-pay that they do have now,” Gelter said. “It will be capped at a ceiling. So it will be a lot better for our patients.

“Also we think that we can organize their care better through an HMO-type principal, because we can direct them here and we can work better with health plans, and we can keep them out of the hospital.”

Part of the reason Wenstrup was invited was because of his career as a podiatrist before becoming a politician. Wenstrup said he had first-hand experience working with dialysis patients and those suffering from kidney disease.

Wenstrup added that despite his opposition to the highly controversial Affordable Care Act, he admitted that something needed to be done for uninsured patients.

Wenstrup later referenced the recent controversy surrounding the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, claiming that the U.S. Congress needs to do more to help provide care to patients, as opposed to raising administrative funds.

“When Congress over the last decade or so was putting money into the VA, it was going more to administration or care,” Wenstrup said. “We’re not looking, at the VA committee, the patient is in the ambulance. Some people in Congress are talking about building new buildings. But the patient is still in the ambulance, they don’t have time for the new building, we can talk about that down the road.”

Wenstrup also discussed the challenge to the Affordable Care Act that’s set to be discussed in the Supreme Court this year. He said that if the Supreme Court rules against the federal government’s healthcare exchanges, that the Congress needs to have a plan in place to approve as soon as possible.

“In the House, we’re working on it, to have a plan in place,” Wenstrup said. “It needs to be ready to go the day (the Supreme Court) makes the decision. If they don’t it’s on us.”

In addition to discussing the bill, Gelter said that DaVita have ramped up their education programs for those who are at risk of suffering a kidney disease. They’re also teaching patients how to use a home dialysis kit.

Following the meeting, Wenstrup told Gelter he would look over the bill in more detail and discuss whether he would support the bill in the future.