Kidney Patients From Across South Carolina Visit State Capitol to Encourage Policies that Improve Patient Access to Life-Saving Dialysis and Transplant Care

March Is National Kidney Month; National Kidney Foundation and Dialysis Patient Citizens Sponsor 'Kidney Day at the State House' to Raise Awareness about Chronic Kidney Disease and the Importance of Patient Access to Quality Kidney Care

COLUMBIA, S.C., March 3 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 50 dialysis patients, family members and kidney care advocates from across South Carolina gathered at the state Capitol today with the National Kidney Foundation Serving the Carolinas, South Carolina Region (NKF) and Dialysis Patient Citizens (DPC) to encourage state lawmakers to support Medigap legislation (S. 1128, sponsored by Senators Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee) and Phillip Shoopman (R-Greenville), and H. 4552, sponsored by Representatives Joan Brady (R-Richland), Bill Sandifer (R-Seneca) and Kristopher Crawford (R-Florence)).  If enacted, the legislation will help approximately 500 South Carolinians suffering from kidney failure and patients deemed disabled who are having difficulty accessing health insurance coverage for necessary medical care.

"I am proud to support Medigap legislation designed to help South Carolina's most vulnerable kidney failure patients avoid the financial and emotional strain that can accompany an inability to access complete medical care," said Senator Peeler.  "I hope my colleagues will join me in choosing to expand Medigap access to help these patients get the care they need while also lightening the Medicaid cost burden on South Carolina's taxpayers."

NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning, who is also a kidney transplant recipient and kidney care advocate, is planning to visit South Carolina legislators this month on behalf of kidney patients to advocate for the Medigap bill, as he also did for similar legislation passed in the state legislature and signed into law in Florida in 2009.  Thanks to this legislation, approximately 500 Florida kidney failure patients can now purchase Medigap insurance, helping those who previously could not afford their co-pays and deductibles for their medications and dialysis care.  Across the nation, 29 states have enacted Medigap legislation that is widely embraced by patients, family members, care advocates and taxpayers.  

"March is National Kidney Month, and through Kidney Day at the State House, we are pleased to help bring attention to the need for Medigap legislation and its ability to help kidney failure patients and their families who are struggling to balance the costs of their medical bills with their daily living expenses," said Beth Irick, Division President, National Kidney Foundation Serving the Carolinas. "We hope to count on our lawmakers' support of this important policy this year."

Two populations qualify for Medicare coverage: Individuals over age 65, and those under 65 who meet certain conditions, including the diagnosis of end stage renal disease (ESRD), also known as kidney failure.  While Medicare covers most medical costs, it requires patients to pay deductibles and co-pays.  Under current federal law, only Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 65 are able to purchase Medigap insurance as secondary coverage; patients under the age of 65 do not have this same option.  While most patients have some type of secondary insurance to help with these costs, approximately 500 South Carolinians under age 65 with ESRD do not have access to this coverage intended to help them and patients deemed disabled access essential medical treatments, including kidney transplants, without cost being a barrier to care.  

As the kidney patients and advocates explained to their lawmakers, Medigap coverage protects patients from having to "spend down" their income to become eligible for state Medicaid insurance.  If Medigap legislation is enacted, fewer people will be forced to enter South Carolina's Medicaid program, resulting in Medicaid savings of up to $4.6 million over the next five years, protecting taxpayers from higher program costs.

"For kidney failure patients across South Carolina and nationwide, quality of life depends upon the availability of quality kidney care – and this legislation has the potential to help hundreds of patients gain access to the care they need," said Chad Lennox, Executive Director of Dialysis Patient Citizens. "We hope that by raising visibility on the impact of kidney disease in South Carolina and patients' need for this coverage, state lawmakers will support this policy that not only improves patient access to care, but also saves valuable taxpayer dollars."

"I have medical appointments right now that I need to schedule, but I can't do this until I am able to pay the bills from my last visits.  Unfortunately, I am not able to make these payments on my own," said Angela Lattimore, a 36-year-old ESRD patient from Seneca and DPC Patient Ambassador who participated in Kidney Day at the State House.  "Having the opportunity to purchase Medigap would help me get the care I need, while avoiding having to seek support from the Medicaid program and making my family rely upon the state."

Approximately 546,000 South Carolinians – 1 in 8 residents – have chronic kidney disease, with about 7,500 suffering from ESRD and reliant upon dialysis to function for their failed kidneys.  South Carolina ranks, per capita, third in the nation with the number of patients on dialysis.   Nationally, approximately 527,000 people have kidney failure, which is on the rise as risk factors for CKD – including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity – continue to increase.  Patients with kidney failure must rely on life-saving dialysis treatments, usually three times a week in sessions that last several hours, to remove toxins from the blood in place of their failed kidneys.  

In addition to meeting with their legislators at the State House, NKF and DPC hosted a morning briefing on the need for Medigap reform, where lawmakers voiced their support of this access to care and how it would positively impact hundreds of South Carolinians.

Read the full bill summary here:

http://www.scstatehouse.gov/cgi-bin/web_bh10.exe?bill1=1128&session=118&summary=T

SOURCE Dialysis Patient Citizens



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