Statement of Dialysis Patient Citizens (DPC) on Release of Dialysis Facility Compare Star Ratings

January 22, 2015

Published by Dialysis Patient Citizens
Jan. 22, 2015

Today for the first time consumers are able to examine the new star ratings on Dialysis Facility Compare, which after initial review only reinforces Dialysis Patient Citizens’ concern over the effectiveness of this program in its current form. For example, a dialysis patient who searches for facilities in Charleston, WV will find that there are only one-star facilities within 50 miles, a situation that appears to have more to do with the fact that West Virginia ranks 49th among states in life expectancy than with the quality of care delivered in its dialysis clinics. In fact, to access the nearest five-star facility, this dialysis patient would have to travel out-of-state more than 74 miles three times a week to receive treatment. As a result, we do not believe that CMS’ current star rating methodology will empower consumers to act on quality information in a realistic manner.

We are also extremely disappointed that CMS appears to have reneged on an important promise it made last October, to inform Dialysis Facility Compare visitors that “a one-star rating does not mean you will receive poor care from a facility.” We cannot find this essential language anywhere on its website. It is critical that patients understand that all dialysis facilities provide life-sustaining treatment, and that they should not be alarmed or discouraged if higher-rated facilities are not available in their area.

Dialysis Patient Citizens (DPC) repeatedly urged CMS to assign star ratings using regional rather than nationwide comparisons, to ensure that ratings reflect actual clinical quality and not a region’s underlying population health or other socio-demographic factors. DPC also asked CMS to limit the assignment of one- and two-star ratings to facilities that should be avoided, so that Dialysis Facility Compare would leverage consumers’ prior experience with star rating systems for movies, hotels and other products and services. Unfortunately, CMS disregarded our requests, which in December led us to file a Request for Correction under the Data Quality Act seeking these modifications to Dialysis Facility Compare. CMS has not ruled on that petition.

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DPC is America’s largest patient-led organization representing dialysis patients. With a membership of more than 27,000 dialysis and pre-dialysis patients and their families, DPC’s mission is to improve the quality of life of dialysis patients by engaging policy makers, providers and the public. Through patient education, empowerment and advocacy, DPC works to increase awareness about kidney disease and promote favorable public policy.