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Public Statements

Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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Mr. DURBIN. Mr. President, today I am introducing the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act with my colleague Senator Thad Cochran.

More than 26 million American adults are living with chronic kidney disease. Fortunately, many of these individuals are able to improve their condition through medication and lifestyle change.

But more than half of a million Americans live with irreversible kidney failure or end-stage renal disease. They have only two choices to survive--both of them hard. They can receive regular and frequent dialysis or they can receive a kidney transplant.

In 1972, Congress made a commitment to individuals with end-stage renal disease, or ERSD, to cover the treatment they needed, including possible transplants, under Medicare, regardless of their age.

Organ transplantation is a medical success story. Thousands of kidney transplants are done every year, and for the patients fortunate enough to receive a donated organ, the quality and length of their lives can be dramatically improved.

But not everyone who needs a donated kidney receives one. There are currently more than 100,000 Americans on the waiting list for a kidney transplant.

Last year, 15,000 transplants were performed while more than 30,000 people were added to that waitlist.

Derek Haney is one of the lucky ones who beat those odds and received a kidney transplant.

Derek is a brave young man raised in Effingham, IL, a small city in central Illinois.

In 2008 the unexpected happened. Derek became chronically ill. After regular trips to the hospital, Derek's doctors discovered that his kidneys were only functioning at 10 percent. At the age of 23, Derek was diagnosed with end stage renal disease.

For the next two and a half years of his life, Derek underwent dialysis. Three times a week he would go in a 4-hour dialysis treatment, while he waited for a kidney. The dialysis treatments meant that Derek had to put his college plans on hold, but he continued to work full-time and never gave up hope.

On July 15, 2010, Derek got his new kidney.

Two and a half years later, Derek is still healthy. He is pursuing a degree in business administration at a local community college. He hopes to transfer soon to a university where he can work toward a CPA license.

Fortunate1y for Derek and his family, Medicare covered the expense of dialysis--more than $75,000 a year for 2 1/2 years. Medicare also paid for Derek's kidney transplant at a cost of about $110,000.

For the last two and a half years, Medicare has covered the expensive immunosuppressive medication Derek must take for the rest of his life to ensure that his body doesn't reject his new kidney.

Here's the problem: Derek's Medicare coverage runs out in July.

Without Medicare coverage, Derek will be burdened with prescription drug costs of roughly $1500 per month--more than he and almost any family could afford.

There is an unfair and unrealistic gap in coverage for people with end stage renal disease who, like Derek, are neither elderly nor disabled.

For those transplant recipients, Medicare coverage, including coverage of immunosuppressive drugs, ends 36 months after transplantation.

If only the need to continue the immunosuppressive drugs also ended 36 months after transplantation. But it doesn't.

Without immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection, many patients find themselves back in a risky and frightening place--in need of a new kidney.

A recent New England Journal of Medicine report estimates that extending immunosuppressive drug coverage to people who now lose it after 36 months will save Medicare approximately $200 million a year by helping to prevent kidney rejections.

Extending immunosuppressive drug coverage saves lives and it saves money.

Sadly, Derek isn't alone. It is estimated that over 45,000 successful transplant recipients are at risk of losing their immunosuppressive drug coverage.

This makes no sense morally, medically or economically.

I am pleased to join my Republican colleague, Senator Cochran, in introducing the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act.

This bipartisan legislation would allow kidney transplant recipients to continue Medicare coverage for the purpose of immunosuppressive drugs only. All other Medicare coverage would end 36 months after the transplant.

Our legislation will reduce the need for dialysis and repeated kidney transplants. It will provide reliable, sustained access to critically important, life-saving medications for thousands of Americans.

In both moral and economic terms, this is the right decision and I urge our colleagues to join us in passing this reasonable, targeted, lifesaving bill.

Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be printed in the Record.

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