One of the most common organs to fail, get cancer or need support is the kidneys. Most of us know someone or many people who have to receive dialysis and are on the waiting list of a new kidney. Did you know the care and coverage of the services needed is something that’s being discussed in Congress? Let’s take a look at what has happened and where your support is needed.
Patients with End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) have had their treatment covered by Medicare since Congress passed this coverage into law in 1973. This care and treatment were offered regardless of age or disability status. This meant Medicate would cover the cost of dialysis which could total more than $85,000 per year while the patient waits for a new kidney to be available. The average wait time is five to eight years after which, Medicare covers the cost of the kidney transplant.
When a transplant takes place, a body could reject the organ. Thankfully, there is medicine that’s used to avoid this rejection. For three years after the transplant, Medicare also covers the daily anti-rejection medication that is necessary for the rest of their lives. The cost of the medication is less than $3,000 per year but is only covered for three years. When you consider the $9,000 for this coverage versus the more than $500,000 for dialysis and a new kidney, the numbers just don’t add up.
Many of the patients that have a new kidney will take measures that could be deadly after the three years of anti-rejection medication ends. They might spread out the medication to make them last longer or be faced with the decision to buy other necessities or go without their medication, which is a decision no one should be faced with. Without the right medication at the right time, their bodies will reject their kidney and the patient eventually will die from this rejection. All that money put into a kidney transplant and then a lack of support afterward; there’s simply no justification for this.
Over the past several months a grassroots campaign has begun, focused on addressing the issue of immunosuppressive medication coverage. Since March 2019, support has been offered for this movement to successfully bring this issue back to the forefront of the policymakers in Washington, D.C.
Under the leadership of Secretary Alex Azar, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has released two reports that estimate extending coverage of anti-rejection medications would result in savings for Medicare, not additional costs. Azar is the son of a kidney transplant recipient, which means this legislation and reporting hits home for him. In June 2020, the Congressional Budget Office released a report that agrees with the HHS findings to offer more strength to the movement. The bill is good for all, regardless of political affiliations. It could save lives and save Medicare money.
Now is the time for you to show your support for The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act, H.R. 5534 and S. 3353, which has been reintroduced to Congress this year. Your voice will go a long way to help kidney transplant patients have the anti-rejection medication they need for their entire lives. Shouldn’t these patients be able to live happy and healthy lives without the concern of how to pay for their medication? Contact your Congressional members today and urge them to stand with kidney transplant patients and #HonorTheGift.