In April 2005, Medicare began adjusting payments to dialysis providers for composite-rate services for a limited set of patient characteristics, including age, body surface area, and low body mass index. We present analyses intended to help the end-stage renal disease community understand the empirical reasons behind the new composite-rate basic case-mix adjustment. The U-shaped relationship between age and composite-rate cost that is reflected in the basic case-mix adjustment has generated significant discussion within the end-stage renal disease community. Whereas greater costs among older patients are consistent with conventional wisdom, greater costs among younger patients are caused in part by more skipped sessions and a greater incidence of certain costly comorbidities. Longer treatment times for patients with a greater body surface area combined with the largely fixed cost structure of dialysis facilities explains much of the greater cost for larger patients. The basic case-mix adjustment reflects an initial and partial adjustment for the cost of providing composite-rate services.