Last night, Congressman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R--Texas) and Congressman Ron Kind (D--Wisconsin) introduced the Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act. This legislation, H.R. 2969 will allow individuals who are eligible for immunosuppressive drugs under Medicare Part B to continue to receive their vital treatment past the 36-month cutoff. Without these drugs, transplant recipients are at risk to lose their transplanted kidneys -- which too often happens.
"Although now more mainstream than heroic, renal transplantation offers end stage renal disease patients an alternative to a lifetime of dialysis," said Congressman Michael C. Burgess, M.D. who is the Vice Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Health and Chairman of the Congressional Health Care Caucus. "How incredibly cruel then, that the gravest threat to their newly acquired kidney is an incoherent federal policy that denies coverage for anti-rejection drugs after 36 months and a costlier return to patients and the Medicare system to dialysis."
Since 1972, Medicare has covered people with irreversible kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD). There is no Medicare time limit for a dialysis patient. However, kidney transplant recipients lose their Medicare coverage 36 months after a transplant. Extending immunosuppressive coverage beyond the 36-month limit would decrease the risk of organ failure due to patients neglecting to take the immunosuppressants following loss of immunosuppressive coverage. Furthermore, transplant recipients have a higher quality of life, and are more likely to return to work than dialysis patients.
"Health care costs are the fasting growing area of spending in the national budget," said Rep. Kind. "We should be doing everything we can to improve patient care while getting these costs under control and this legislation is a great step in the right direction. Providing kidney transplant patients access to the medication to ensure the success of their transplant helps keep health care costs down -- by decreasing the need for further dialysis and the likelihood of a re-transplant - and the quality of life up -- so that patients won't have to worry about how they will pay for the medicine to maintain their health."
"On behalf of the American Society of Transplantation (AST), representing the majority of professionals engaged in the field of organ transplantation, I strongly applaud Congressmen Burgess (R-TX) and Kind (D-WI) for their leadership in introducing the "Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2011'," said Dr. Bob Gaston, President of the American Society of Transplantation (AST). "This bipartisan and bicameral legislation will ensure that kidney recipients are able to maintain their life-saving donor organ. This is a common sense approach that will save both lives and federal funds by preventing organ rejection, re-transplantation and more costly therapies already covered under Medicare. The transplant community and the patient population that it serves are extremely grateful to Congressmen Burgess and Kind for their steadfast commitment to this issue and the lives that will be saved as the consequence of their efforts."
"The National Kidney Foundation commends Representatives Burgess and Kind for their leadership on this critically important legislation. This bill, coupled with the companion legislation by Senators Durbin and Cochran, will ensure that thousands of Americans can keep their transplants, allow thousands more to be transplanted, and reduce the need for re-transplants of people who can no longer pay for vital medication and who end up back on dialysis and the transplant waiting list. This legislation is a major first step towards achieving the goal of the National Kidney Foundations END THE WAIT! initiative to find solutions to the organ shortage and eliminate the all-too-long wait for a transplant," said Lynda Szczech, MD, National Kidney Foundation President.
U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D--Illinois), Thad Cochran (R--Mississippi) and Scott Brown (R--Massachusetts) have introduced companion legislation in their respective chambers.