Several major ESRD-related regulatory and reimbursement changes were introduced in the United States in 2011. In several large, national datasets, these changes have been associated with decreases in erythropoiesis stimulating agent (ESA) utilization and hemoglobin concentrations in the ESRD population, as well as an increase in the use of red blood cell (RBC) transfusions in this population. Our objective was to examine the use of RBC transfusion before and after the regulatory and reimbursement changes implemented in 2011 in a prevalent population of chronic dialysis patients in a large national claims database.
Patients in the Truven Health MarketScan Commercial and Medicare Databases with evidence of chronic dialysis were selected for the study. The proportion of chronic dialysis patients who received any RBC transfusion and RBC transfusion event rates per 100 patient-months were calculated in each month from January 1, 2007 to March 31, 2012. The results were analyzed overall and stratified by primary health insurance payer (commercial payer or Medicare).
Overall, the percent of chronic dialysis patients with RBC transfusion and RBC transfusion event rates per 100 patient-months increased between January 2007 and March 2012. When stratified by primary health insurance payer, it appears that the increase was driven by the primary Medicare insurance population. While the percent of patients with RBC transfusion and RBC transfusion event rates did not increase in the commercially insured population between 2007 and 2012 they did increase in the primary Medicare insurance population; the majority of the increase occurred in 2011 during the same time frame as the ESRD-related regulatory and reimbursement changes.