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Texas Kidney Community Expresses Hope DC Health Care Reform Debate Can Help Drive Continued Progress in Texas Opening Needed Dialysis Facilities

Thursday, September 17, 2009 General News J E 4
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Texas Kidney Care Coalition: Additional Opening of 38 New Facilities Will Boost Local Jobs, Improve Patient Access to Care

AUSTIN, Texas, Sept. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- As Congress reconvenes following an August recess period filled with wide-ranging local discussion of health care reform, the Texas kidney community expressed hope that the momentum and public desire for health care reform in Washington can help drive momentum and discussion in Texas about the vital need to open 38 end stage renal disease (ESRD) centers still sitting idle, which, if opened, will dramatically expand access to quality dialysis care and create good-paying local jobs.

Texas Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison have led a bipartisan Texas congressional delegation letter-writing effort to officials of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in Washington spotlighting the fact that many local dialysis facilities, through no fault of their own, were facing certification backlog delays of up to 18 months. "These delays cause severe challenges for Texas Medicare beneficiaries' access to care, as well as threaten the viability of these facilities as part of the Texas economy," warned their letter.

The lawmakers and CMS officials worked successfully with the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), resulting in the recent initiation of the critical certification process necessary to open 22 new dialysis centers across the state. With additional facilities now accessible, patients can receive dialysis treatment closer to home, and at the time slot that works best for their schedule and lifestyle. Ultimately, this will enable patients to maximize their time, and better juggle their treatment, family and work commitments.

"We are hopeful that the enormous public interest in health care reform Texans witnessed over the summer at congressional town hall meetings can be a harbinger for more necessary focus and discussion here in Texas regarding why opening 38 currently idle ESRD facilities will help boost local jobs and improve patient access to care," said Jess Hall, President of the Texas Division of the National Kidney Foundation. "While the Texas economy remains more robust than the national economy, Friday's announcement that the national unemployment rate hit 9.7 percent is a reminder that more local jobs, in addition to better dialysis access, are good reasons to pursue opening the pending facilities."

"We commend CMS and the many Texas state officials who deserve credit for recognizing the certification backlog problem - with delays of up to 18 months - and then acting collegially and successfully in the public interest to greatly improve access to quality dialysis care for patients in these 22 affected communities," said Robert Hootkins, M.D., medical director of Fresenius Medical Care Austin North. "The end result is better dialysis care for ESRD patients and more jobs for Texans - and now we need the positive momentum to continue. Despite the rancor we all witnessed in the media coverage of town hall meetings, and complaints about government in general, this is one shining example of federal and state government working together, successfully, for those they serve."

Mr. Hall and Dr. Hootkins said the same arguments and logic that helped initiate the certification process for these original 22 facilities is still operative for the remaining 38 facilities. They urged federal and state officials to keep doing the excellent work needed to continue expanding patients' access to the dialysis care they need, where they need it - in addition to ensuring Texas can continue leading the way nationally in terms of economic resiliency.

The Texas U.S. House members successfully working with Senators Cornyn and Hutchison, and who signed the key letter to CMS are Reps. Pete Sessions, Ron Paul, Gene Green, Mike Conaway, Michael Burgess, Pete Olson, Kevin Brady, Kenny Marchant, Chet Edwards, Louie Gohmert, Kay Granger, Ted Poe, Sheila Jackson Lee, Ralph Hall, Randy Neugebauer, Charlie Gonzalez, John Carter, Ruben Hinojosa, Henry Cuellar, Michael McCaul, Sam Johnson, Jeb Hensarling, Lamar Smith, John Culberson, Al Green, Eddie Bernice Johnson and Solomon Ortiz.

SOURCE Texas Kidney Care Coalition
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