In 2001, there were 406,081 patients who received treatment for end-stage renal disease (ESRD), increasing by 4.2% since 2000. The number of patients with ESRD has grown consistently over the past decade, with the greatest rate of growth occurring among patients older than 75 years of age, and patients with comorbidities such as diabetes mellitus and hypertension. Current projections indicate that the population of patients with ESRD may reach more than 2 million by 2030. The overall mortality rate has fallen by 10% since 1988, with the greatest decline among patients incident to dialysis, and an increase among patients receiving dialysis for greater than five years. While the rate of hospitalization for ESRD patients has remained relatively constant, recent improvements in mortality are temporally associated with a greater proportion of patients achieving adequate benchmarks of care in dialytic processes, such as anemia correction and dose of dialysis. The ESRD program consumes 6.4% of the Medicare budget. On a per-patient per month basis, Medicare costs have risen between 1991 and 2001. While payments fell slightly during 1998 and 1999 because of changes in Medicare policies, more recent years have seen an upswing in total expenditures, presumably related to use of injectables not included in the composite rate. Continued growth in the number of new patients reaching ESRD, as well as improved mortality rates of ESRD patients, are both contributing to the current rise and projected epidemic of ESRD over the next 25 years. The current public health strategy of identification of patients with early kidney disease to slow their progression to ESRD, in addition to aggressive treatment strategies to minimize the morbidity and mortality of patients with ESRD, is essential toward affecting the growth and health of this population.