WASHINGTON, Jan. 6, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Honor the Gift, a national patient-centered coalition made up of 26 of the leading kidney and transplant organizations across the country, applauds the House of Representatives on the bipartisan introduction of legislation that would extend Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive medications for kidney transplant recipients.
The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act—introduced today in the House by Reps. Ron Kind (R-WI) and Michael Burgess, M.D. (R-TX)—would allow kidney transplant recipients to maintain Medicare Part B coverage for immunosuppressive medications beyond the current 3-year limit, extending coverage for the lifetime of the transplanted kidney. Members of the Honor the Gift coalition have advocated for this much-needed change for almost twenty years and are pleased to see renewed efforts to address the issue in Congress.
"As a kidney transplant recipient who just passed Medicare's three-year cut off, I am encouraged by the bipartisan support of this legislation and am grateful this issue is finally receiving the attention it deserves," said Monica Fox, Manager of Outreach and Government Relations for the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois, a patient advocate for Honor the Gift, and a kidney transplant recipient. "Under the current Medicare policy, some kidney transplant recipients are forced to choose between paying for their immunosuppressive medications or meeting their basic needs. If the government can prevent that from happening and save money while they're at it, voting yes on this legislation is a no brainer."
According to a recent analysis by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Medicare would save an estimated $300 million over 10 years by extending this anti-rejection medication coverage. HHS Sec. Alex Azar himself said, "Extending coverage of the immunosuppressant drugs could help patients avert dialysis in the future, supporting transplantation, which of course is a better health outcome at a lower cost."
"The current Medicare reimbursement system for kidney patients' post-transplant care makes no sense morally or financially and I'm thrilled so many members of Congress are working hard to see that it's changed," said Dr. Matthew Cooper, director of Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation at the MedStar Georgetown Transplant Institute (MGTI) and a Professor of Surgery at Georgetown University School of Medicine. "Since we've also received support from the Administration, we're more hopeful now than ever that we can finally get this legislation passed and do right by kidney recipients and their donors."
Amending Medicare's current policy not only would save the system money, but it would help protect the lives of kidney transplant patients as well. 68% of kidney transplant programs in the United States have reported deaths and organ transplant losses due to patients' inability to pay for their anti-rejection medications. In 2015 alone, 375 Medicare patients needlessly lost their transplanted kidney due to lack of immunosuppressive medication coverage.
"Kidney transplant patients have been suffering from Medicare's lack of long-term immunosuppressive medication coverage for far too long," said Jim Gleason, President of Transplant Recipients International Organization (TRIO). "Ensuring these patients' medications are covered beyond just today's 36 months will provide much needed relief to thousands of families across the country. We are grateful for those in Congress who are working to finally ensure this legislation makes it to the President's desk."
Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Jamie Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Donald McEachin (D-VA) and Jason Smith (R-MO), joined Kind and Burgess as original cosponsors of the legislation. Leaders in the Senate are expected to introduce a similar bill later this year. Kidney transplant recipients, donors and advocates can contact their members of Congress and express their support for the legislation by visiting the Honor the Gift's website and utilizing its digital advocacy tool.
Learn more about Honor the Gifts' efforts to extend Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive medications for kidney transplant patients at HonorTheGift.org.
About Honor the Gift Honor the Gift is a national patient-centered campaign focused on extending Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive medication for kidney transplant recipients beyond the current three-year limit. The campaign is powered by a coalition of stakeholder groups from around the country dedicated to protecting kidney transplant patients and honoring the gift of kidney donation by providing civic engagement tools and resources. For more information, visit HonorTheGift.org.