Dialysis Patients’ Use of Charitable Funds Questioned in Kickback Investigation

January 13, 2017; Reuters

In a victory for three major dialysis providers, a U.S. district judge has temporarily blocked a new federal rule from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that would have prevented dialysis patients from buying health insurance with charitable funds. The new rule, which was announced on December 14th, would force dialysis providers to disclose to insurers any third-party assistance patients use to pay for end-stage kidney treatment. Amos Mazzant, a district judge in Texas, placed the rule on hold on January 13th after Fresenius Medical Care, DaVita Inc., and U.S. Renal Care Inc. filed a lawsuit to block the HHS rule. Mazzant has indicated that the lawsuit will probably be successful, and that the HHS has “likely violated the procedures” regarding the establishment of such a rule. HHS has said that the new rule is “intended to ensure that insurance coverage decisions are not inappropriately influenced by the financial interests of dialysis facilities.” Supporters of the regulation say that patients are encouraged to use charitable funds to pay for premiums on the private insurance marketplaces created under the Affordable Care Act.