South Carolina's Kidney Community Thanks State Senator Luke Rankin for Valuable Support of Medigap Legislation

Mar 29, 2010, 15:23 ET from National Kidney Foundation

Senator Rankin (R-Myrtle Beach) Signs on as Co-Sponsor to Bill that Would Improve Access to Life-Saving Care for South Carolina Kidney Patients and the Disabled

COLUMBIA, S.C., March 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Members of South Carolina's kidney community – including the National Kidney Foundation Serving the Carolinas, South Carolina Region (NKF) and Dialysis Patient Citizens; patients; caregivers and other supporters – thank state Senator Luke Rankin (R-Myrtle Beach), Chairman of the Senate Banking and Insurance Subcommittee, for signing on as a bill co-sponsor in support of proposed legislation designed to help hundreds of kidney patients and thousands of the disabled in South Carolina access needed health insurance coverage for life-saving medical care.

The legislation, S. 1128 – up for second reading in the Senate, having passed at the subcommittee and full committee level – would allow end stage renal disease (ESRD) and disabled South Carolina residents under age 65 to purchase secondary insurance coverage known as Medigap to help with their medical expenses.  Under federal law, all Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 65 are already able to purchase this insurance, which provides them with the ability to access needed medical treatments, including kidney transplant, without cost being a barrier.  

"On behalf of South Carolina's kidney patients who are currently struggling with paying their medical bills for life-saving and life-enhancing care, we applaud Senator Rankin for his support of enhancing these patients' access to care," said Beth Irick, National Kidney Foundation Serving the Carolinas Division President. "Expanded access to Medigap will help these patients while also saving the state Medicaid program millions of dollars, and we sincerely hope the state legislature will ensure its passage this year."

Under current Medicare law, two populations qualify for coverage: individuals over the age of 65, and those under 65 who meet certain conditions, including the diagnosis of ESRD and being deemed disabled.  While Medicare covers most medical costs, it requires patients to pay deductibles and co-pays, which most patients pay for through the assistance of secondary insurance.  However, hundreds of kidney failure patients and thousands of disabled people in South Carolina under age 65 have no secondary insurance coverage, and are unable to afford their out-of-pocket medical expenses.  

Last week, former NBA All-Star and kidney transplant recipient Alonzo Mourning joined the NKF in speaking with South Carolina lawmakers about the benefits of Medigap for kidney patients by improving their access to care and helping them preserve their financial independence in helping them avoid having to "spend down" their assets and turn to the state for Medicaid support.

"Right now, my monthly bills not covered by Medicare are too heavy a burden on top of my other regular costs of living, and under current state law I will have to wait 11 more years before I can purchase a more affordable Medigap plan," said Greg Stricheck, a 54-year-old dialysis patient from Myrtle Beach. "I am proud of my Senator for stepping up to back this needed solution for patients like me, and I appreciate his support for us in the legislature."

"Recent estimates have shown that Medigap legislation in South Carolina could actually result in approximately $5 million in savings to the state's Medicaid program over five years, so it makes sense to do from a health standpoint as well as a financial standpoint," said Chad Lennox, Executive Director of the national, non-profit, patient-led Dialysis Patient Citizens, which represents approximately 450 members of the kidney community in South Carolina.  "We appreciate Senator Rankin's and the state Senate's attention on this important matter that has the potential to greatly improve many South Carolinians' quality of life."

SOURCE National Kidney Foundation