Moderate Kidney Disease Costs Medicare Tens of Billions of Dollars Each Year

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C.  –  Early stages of kidney disease cost Medicare tens of billions of dollars each year, according to a study by researchers at RTI International, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and University of Michigan.

The study, published in the Aug. 1 issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology looked at the costs of early stages of chronic kidney disease to Medicare. Although kidney failure, also known as Stage 5, contributes to high medical spending, little was previously known about the costs of chronic kidney disease.

The study showed that Medicare spending attributable to chronic kidney disease Stages 2 through 4 is likely to exceed $48 billion per year.

 “This study is important because we were able to identify that even early stages of chronic kidney disease—before people progress to full end-stage renal disease—contribute to high Medicare costs,” said Amanda Honeycutt, Ph.D., an economist at RTI and the paper’s lead author. “The study highlights the need to identify chronic kidney disease in its earliest stages to prevent disease progression and avoid the high medical costs attributable to the latter stages of the disease.”

The major findings include:

  • Medicare costs attributable to Stage 2 chronic kidney disease amounted to $1,700 per person per year.
  • Costs attributable to Stage 3 chronic kidney disease were $3,500 per person per year
  • Costs attributable to Stage 4 chronic kidney disease were $12,700 per person per year
  • Medicare costs attribute to treating chronic kidney disease for people with Stage 1 chronic kidney disease were not significantly different from zero

*all costs were adjusted to 2010 dollars.

To conduct the study, the researchers used a sample of participants from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey III, to obtain lab measurements and estimate stages of chronic kidney disease for persons in the sample.

The researchers merged Medicare payment data with the survey to determine the impact of diseases and other factors on Medicare spending. The lab data used in the analyses were from 1988 through 1994, and they were linked to Medicare costs for 1991 through 1994.

The study was funded by the CDC.

kidney dialysis machine


  • Medicare spending attributable to moderate stages of chronic kidney disease is likely to exceed $48 billion per year.
  • Efforts to prevent the development of chronic kidney disease may lead to significant medical cost savings.