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The Marginal Cost of Frailty Among Medicare Patients on Hemodialysis.



Dialysis patients incur disproportionately high costs compared with other Medicare beneficiaries. Care for frail individuals may be even more costly. We examined the extent to which frailty contributes to higher costs among dialysis patients.


We used ACTIVE/ADIPOSE (A Cohort to Investigate the Value of Exercise/Analyses Designed to Investigate the Paradox of Obesity and Survival in ESRD) enrollees (adult hemodialysis patients evaluated from June 2009 to August 2011) in a retrospective cohort analysis. Individuals using Medicare as the primary payer were included. Fried's frailty phenotype was evaluated at baseline, 12, and 24 months. Costs were derived from linkage with the US Renal Data System (USRDS) and Medicare claims data. We used generalized estimating equations (GEEs) incorporating time-updated frailty and costs to evaluate adjusted point estimates and the marginal cost associated with being frail. We also investigated if frail patients who died during the study incurred higher costs than those who survived.


Among 771 enrollees in ACTIVE/ADIPOSE, 425 met inclusion criteria. Mean age was 56 ± 13 years, body mass index (BMI) 29.2 ± 7.1 kg/m2, 42.4% were women, and 29.0% were frail at baseline. Over a mean follow-up of 2.3 years, frail individuals incurred 22% (95% confidence interval [CI] 9.6%-35.8%) higher costs compared with nonfrail individuals ($87,600 per patient per year [pppy], 95% CI 76,800-100,000, vs. $71,800 pppy, 95% CI 64,800-79,600), the difference was driven primarily by higher inpatient expenditures. The difference between frail and nonfrail patients' inpatient expenditures was even more pronounced among those who died during the study compared with those who survived.


Frail dialysis patients incur a significantly higher cost relative to their nonfrail counterparts, primarily driven by higher inpatient costs. Frail patients near end of life incur even higher costs.

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