South Carolina Senate Banking & Insurance Committee Advances Medigap Bill to Full Senate by Overwhelming Vote

Supported by the S.C. Kidney Care Community, Patients and Lawmakers, S. 1128 Designed to Provide Access to Secondary Insurance for Approximately 500 Kidney Failure Patients in Need

COLUMBIA, S.C., March 11 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Dialysis Patient Citizens (DPC) and the National Kidney Foundation Serving the Carolinas, South Carolina Region (NKF) today applaud the South Carolina Senate Banking and Insurance Committee led by Chairman David Thomas (R-Greenville) and subcommittee chairman Luke Rankin (R-Horry) for passing Medigap legislation -- S. 1128. The important legislation will improve kidney failure patients' access to life-saving dialysis care and transplant medications.  Dialysis patients and family members attending the hearing encouraged lawmakers to support the bill which, if enacted, will allow approximately 500 South Carolinians suffering from kidney failure to purchase the supplemental medical insurance they need to access lifesaving care.  

NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning, also a kidney transplant recipient and kidney care advocate, is planning to visit South Carolina legislators later this month on behalf of kidney patients. Mourning will advocate for passage of the Medigap bill, as he did for similar Florida legislation in 2009.  The successful Florida Medigap law helped over 1000 Florida kidney failure patients purchase critical supplemental insurance to help pay for costly co-pays and deductibles.

Across the nation, 29 states have enacted Medigap legislation that is widely embraced by patients, family members, care advocates and taxpayers. The South Carolina Senate bill is sponsored by Senators Harvey Peeler (R-Cherokee) and Phillip Shoopman (R-Greenville). This important legislation includes a companion bill in the House, H. 4552, sponsored by Representatives Joan Brady (R-Richland), Kristopher Crawford (R-Florence), and Bill Sandifer (R-Seneca).

James Ravenell, a dialysis patient from Walterboro, spoke to legislators last week as part of the NKF and DPC sponsored "Kidney Day at the State House" which included more than 50 patient participants statewide. He returned to the capitol yesterday to testify at a Senate Banking and Insurance Subcommittee hearing on the bill. "My fellow dialysis patients and I all traveled over an hour and a half by car from Walterboro to be here today. Some of us have rescheduled our dialysis treatments for a second week in a row to be here; that is how important this legislation is," said Ravenell.  "South Carolina needs to pass Medigap reform so we can focus on getting healthy and not have to worry if we will have access to necessary medical treatments and care."

"Hundreds of South Carolina patients would benefit from this important legislation, and we applaud the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee's support of these patients by passing the Medigap bill today," said Beth Irick, Division President for the NKF. "Providing patients with expanded access to care not only makes good sense from a healthcare perspective; it also makes financial sense. We commend the Committee for showing their support."

Two populations qualify for Medicare coverage: Individuals over age 65, and those under 65 who include those suffering from end stage renal disease (ESRD) -- also known as kidney failure.  While Medicare covers most medical costs, it leaves patients with sizable deductibles and co-pays.  Under current federal law, only Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 65 are able to purchase Medigap insurance as supplemental coverage; patients under the age of 65 currently can't purchase supplemental coverage.  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.  

Medigap coverage protects many patients from having to "spend down" their income to become eligible for state Medicaid assistance.  If enacted, fewer people will be forced to enter the state Medicaid program, resulting in significant Medicaid savings over the next five years for South Carolina and protecting taxpayers from higher program costs.  

"No patient should have to make the choice between paying their medical bills and their everyday living expenses, and this bill will help many South Carolina patients who are now in that difficult situation," said Chad Lennox, Executive Director of Dialysis Patient Citizens, a national nonprofit patient advocacy organization representing more than 450 patients across the state of South Carolina. "This legislation will go a long way in helping South Carolina's patients in need, and on behalf of those patients, we thank the Senate Banking and Insurance Committee for their support."

The bill will now advance to the full Senate for consideration.

SOURCE Dialysis Patient Citizens




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