ASN, AAKP, AKF, ANNA, CDC, NANT, NKF, RPA, and the Renal Healthcare Association (formerly the NRAA) are collaborating to sponsor a January 7, 2021 webinar on Safety and Efficacy of COVID-19 Vaccines in the Dialysis Population. Webinar topics will include available information about the safety and efficacy of the current COVID-19 vaccines for health care workers and patients with CKD, the risk of poor outcomes in those contracting COVID-19, the position of the sponsors on urging dialysis patients to get vaccinated, possible concerns about receiving the vaccine, approaches to discussing and defusing those concerns, and a strategy to share the provided information widely. Find more information and register at https://goto.webcasts.com/starthere.jsp?ei=1416384&tp_key=2914871054.
The ESRD Network Coordinating Center will host a December 15, 2021 webinar for patients on Home Dialysis During COVID: Lessons Learned. Topics will include best practices, patient experiences, and patient benefits of dialyzing at home. For details and registration see https://esrdncc.org/en/covid-19/covid-webinars/.
The ESRD Network Coordinating Center will host a December 30, 2021 webinar for providers on The Importance of Kidney Transplant and Referral Process During COVID-19. Topics will include the benefits of getting patients on the waitlist, the impact that COVID-19 has had on the referral process, and how a transplant center educates patients during the pandemic. One CEU credit will be available. For details and registration see https://esrdncc.org/en/covid-19/covid-webinars/.
The Renal Support Network has published an excellent blog post titled Original Medicare vs. Medicare Advantage Plans: How Do I Decide? The post compares “plain vanilla” Medicare to Medicare Advantage (“MA” or sometimes, informally, “Medicare Part C”). Ongoing kidney patients will be eligible for MA plans in 2021 for the first time, and Medicare beneficiaries can switch plans until December 7, 2020. There are pros and cons to both, and each MA plan is unique, so kidney patients should huddle with their insurance advisors and their social worker to make sure that they enroll in the plan which best suits their individual situation. While MA plans can provide additional benefits, they are tied to specific provider groups (or “networks” – not to be confused with the ESRD Networks), and since they may provide very different advantages and disadvantages in different places, they must be evaluated individually.
CDC reports that the best way to protect yourself from the flu is to get vaccinated every year, and has begun a campaign to encourage everyone to get the flu vaccine, especially those with weakened immune systems like CKD patients, who have an increased risk of severe illness from the flu, even without considering COVID-19 – which you can get along with the flu. Find campaign resources like the animation below, in English and Spanish, at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/resource-center/freeresources/graphics/animated-fight-flu-punch.htm .
MEI’s Home Dialysis Central blog has published a post on Insurance 101 for Dialysis Social Workers. The objective is to help assure that people with Chronic Kidney Failure avoid inaccurate advice that can be very costly. The complexity is remarkable – even insurance experts should review the article for anything they may have overlooked. Find the post at https://homedialysis.org/news-and-research/blog/367-insurance-101-for-dialysis-social-workers. It may be particularly useful as we approach the 2020 Medicare Open Enrollment Period.
Just a few examples:
You must have paid Social Security taxes for a specific length of time to be eligible for Medicare to cover treatment for chronic kidney failure.
Medicare coverage starts in month 4 for in-center dialysis, but starts in month 1 for home dialysis.
Medicare part A is free, but it’s Part B that pays for dialysis, and it’s not free.
If you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B or D when you’re first eligible for part A, you’ll pay a lot more for them.
A few of the terms and acronyms that complicate matters: work credits, Medicare Advantage, Medigap, Medicaid, Medi-Cal, primary payer, Medicare assignment, MA, QMD, SLMB, COBRA, QHP, ACA.
NKF and CDC will co-host a free September 30, 2020 webinar on Protecting Yourself and Your Patients: Preventing Influenza in the COVID-19 Era, focused on taking the steps to prevent influenza during the COVID-19 pandemic. Influenza can be associated with serious illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths, especially in people with certain chronic medical conditions, such as those with CKD at any stage, including patients on dialysis and transplant recipients. This webinar will provide an overview of the implications of influenza vaccinations among healthcare professionals caring for kidney patients. Also, strategies for encouraging influenza vaccination among patients and others will be discussed. The webinar offers 0.50 CME credit. Find full details and register at https://education.kidney.org/content/webinar-protecting-yourself-and-your-patients-preventing-influenza-covid-19-era.
CDC has published (non-COVID-19) flu vaccine recommendations for the 2020-2021 season. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, reducing the spread of respiratory illness, like flu, this fall and winter is more important than ever. Find the 2020-2021 recommendations at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/acip/summary/summary-recommendations.htm. Also available in Spanish and eight other languages.*
Medicare Part B covers one flu shot per flu season and additional flu shots if medically necessary. Flu shots are free for Medicare patients. Pneumonia and flu shots can be given during the same office visit; find recommended schedules at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/schedules/hcp/imz/adult.html.
CDC, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee recommend that all U.S. health care workers get annual flu shots.
* To find the non-English versions, go to the links above, then click on “Español” or “Other Languages” – these links are either in the upper right corner of the page, or between the title and the text of the document.
CDC has launched a new web page on Natural Disasters, Severe Weather, and COVID-19, to provide information on how people can stay safe during and after natural disasters during the COVID-19 response. The page and a few of its useful links follow:
Pack Your Go Kit: If you need to evacuate, prepare a “go kit” with personal items you cannot do without during an emergency. Include items that can help protect you and others from COVID-19, such as hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, bar or liquid soap, disinfectant wipes (if available), and two masks for each person. Masks should not be used by children under the age of 2. They also should not be used by people having trouble breathing, or who are unconscious, incapacitated, or unable to remove the mask without assistance.
Keep Your Distance: When you check on neighbors and friends, be sure to follow social distancing recommendations (staying at least 6 feet from others) and other CDC recommendations to protect yourself and others.