Health Insurance and the Use of Peritoneal Dialysis in the United States

Am J Kidney Dis. 2018 Apr;71(4):479-487. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2017.09.024. Epub 2017 Dec 23.


Background: Many patients in the United States have limited or no health insurance at the time they develop end-stage renal disease (ESRD). We examined whether health insurance limitations affected the likelihood of peritoneal dialysis (PD) use.

Study design: Retrospective cohort analysis of patients from the US Renal Data System initiating dialysis therapy in 2006 through 2012.

Setting & participants: We identified socioeconomically similar groups of patients to examine the association between health insurance and PD use. Patients aged 60 to 64 years with "limited insurance" (defined as having Medicaid or no insurance) at ESRD onset were compared with patients aged 66 to 70 years who were dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid at ESRD onset.

Predictor: Type of insurance coverage at ESRD onset.

Outcomes: The likelihoods of receiving PD before dialysis month 4, when all patients qualified for Medicare due to ESRD, and of switching to PD therapy following receipt of Medicare.

Results: After adjusting for observable patient and geographic differences, patients with limited insurance had an absolute 2.4% (95% CI, 1.1%-3.7%) lower probability of PD use by dialysis month 4 compared with patients with Medicare at ESRD onset. The association between insurance and PD use reversed when patients became Medicare eligible; patients with limited insurance had a 3-fold higher rate of switching to PD therapy between months 4 and 12 of dialysis (HR, 2.9; 95% CI, 1.8-4.6) compared with patients with Medicare at ESRD onset.

Limitations: Because this study was observational, there is a potential for bias from unmeasured patient-level factors.

Conclusions: Despite Medicare's policy of covering patients in the month that they initiate PD therapy, insurance limitations remain a barrier to PD use for many patients. Educating providers about Medicare reimbursement policy and expanding access to pre-ESRD education and training may help overcome these barriers.

Keywords: Health insurance; Medicaid; Medicare; PD use; US Renal Data System (USRDS); dialysis modality; end-stage renal disease (ESRD); health disparities; health economics; hemodialysis (HD); insurance coverage; peritoneal dialysis (PD); renal replacement therapy (RRT).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insurance Coverage / statistics & numerical data*
  • Insurance, Health / statistics & numerical data*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / economics
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Male
  • Medicaid / economics
  • Middle Aged
  • Peritoneal Dialysis / economics*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • United States