Eighty-two percent (82%) of patients initiating hemodialysis in the United States in 2006 did so with a catheter as the functioning access. Even in patients who have been followed by nephrologists for 6 months or more, 74% of patients initiated dialysis with a catheter. This is a multifactoral problem that requires attention and solutions from all stakeholders, including the nephrologist, the vascular surgeon, the hospital, and the insurance industry, as well as the patient and family. We propose a series of specific proposals that include a process for the timely referral and timely placement of a permanent access based on the patient's estimated or measured glomerular filtration rate (GFR), and a 'pay-for-performance' measure for vascular surgeons and nephrologists who admit patients with functional permanent accesses; such pay for performance would place a higher value for patients who are admitted with a functional arteriovenous (AV) fistula than for patients who are admitted with an AV graft. We also propose that hospitals develop a less permissive process for placement of PICC (peripherally inserted central catheters) lines in patients with GFR <60 ml/min and to consider surgery for access placement as 'urgent'. Finally, a more proactive educational process for patients and their families, including an 'informed non-consent' for patients who defer placement of a permanent access needs to be considered. The morbidity, mortality, and health-care costs associated with prolonged catheter use mandate urgent attention to this problem.