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DeWine Bill Would Ensure Organ Transplants Patients Access To Necessary Medicine

Location: Washington, DC


U.S. Senator Mike DeWine (R-OH) today introduced a bill that would ensure organ transplant patients maintain access to the life-saving drugs necessary to prevent their immune systems from rejecting new organs.

Every year, more than 6,000 people die waiting for an organ transplant. Currently, more than 80,000 Americans are waiting for a donor organ. Those individuals who receive an organ transplant must take immunosuppressive drugs every day to help ensure the transplant is not rejected by their immune system. However, Medicare policy denies certain transplant patients coverage of these vital medicines.

"This legislation would affect people's everyday lives by ensuring they can access their essential life-saving medication," said Senator DeWine. "In 2000, Senator Dick Durbin and I worked to pass legislation that would extend Medicare coverage of anti-rejection drugs. Although the legislation became law, it included loopholes to the coverage that would finally be closed by the bill we're offering today."

Medicare coverage for immunosuppressive drugs currently includes the following gaps:

-- Medicare does not pay for anti-rejection drugs for those patients who received their transplants prior to become a Medicare beneficiary. For instance, if a person receives an organ transplant at age 64 through her health insurance plan, she loses immunosuppressive drug coverage when she retires and enrolls in Medicare for health coverage.

-- Medicare only pays for anti-rejection drugs for transplants performed in a Medicare-approved transplant facility.

-- End Stage Renal Disease patients qualify for Medicare on the basis of their needing dialysis. If ESRD patients receive a kidney transplant, they only qualify for Medicare coverage for three years after their transplant.

The new Medicare policy would remove these limitations and would extend coverage to all Medicare beneficiaries who have had a transplant and who need immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection of the transplant. The coverage would be available for as long as the anti-rejection drugs are needed.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) is a co-sponsor of this bill.

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