Physician reimbursement for outpatient dialysis care: Past, present, and future

Semin Dial. 2020 Jan;33(1):68-74. doi: 10.1111/sdi.12853. Epub 2020 Jan 16.


Ever since Medicare began covering nearly every patient with end-stage renal disease in the United States, reimbursement for dialysis services has deviated from traditional fee-for-service. The method of reimbursing physicians for outpatient dialysis care has undergone a series of reforms in an effort to improve the overall quality of dialysis care and to control healthcare costs-changes that we are still seeing today. In 2004, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) changed the Monthly Capitation Payment (MCP) for physician reimbursement to the tiered fee-for-service system that is used today. This most recent reform encouraged more frequent face-to-face visits to patients receiving dialysis. While the quantity of visits increased in response to the change in reimbursement, the quality of care did not meaningfully improve, the policy may have had unintended negative health consequences and may have led to increases in wasteful physician and advanced practitioner effort. There are several promising opportunities to reform economic incentives around physician dialysis care that could improve the quality and value of care. These include new pay-for-performance initiatives, implementing incentives for high-quality care within fully capitated payment models, and reforming the MCP itself to link payment to high-value dialysis services.

Keywords: economic incentives; end-stage renal disease; health policy; physician reimbursement.

MeSH terms

  • Ambulatory Care*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / therapy*
  • Reimbursement Mechanisms*
  • Renal Dialysis*
  • United States