In 1973, Congress made a commitment to patients living with end stage renal disease (ESRD) which allowed their treatment to be covered by Medicare regardless of age or disability status. Under the current arrangement, Medicare will cover the cost of dialysis – totaling more than $85,000 per patient per year – and after waiting an average of five to eight years for the gift of a new kidney, Medicare then covers the cost of the kidney transplant totaling more than $110,000.
Three years after a transplant, Medicare’s coverage of daily anti-rejection medications that kidney transplant recipients depend on for the rest of their lives and cost less than $3,000 per year, stops. When a patient loses their coverage, they must find the funds to pay for medication on their own. What happens to this vulnerable population? They spread out their medications to make them last longer, they face the financial burden as best as they can – deciding between food on the table or medication, they reject their donated gift and they go back on dialysis, or, sadly, they die. The current Medicare policy cannot be justified morally, medically, or economically, and it must be changed.
Over the last several months, NKFI has been working with Honor the Gift, a patient-centered grassroots campaign focused on addressing the immunosuppressive medication coverage issue. Since launching on March 1, 2019, the campaign has seen great support from both the kidney and transplant community and has successfully resurrected this issue once again in Washington, DC.
In 2019, under the leadership of Secretary Alex Azar – whose father was a kidney transplant recipient – the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released two reports which estimated that extending coverage of anti-rejection medications would result in significant savings for Medicare. Then in June 2020, the Congressional Budget Office released a report agreeing with HHS’ findings, further confirming that the Immuno Bill is a non-partisan, non-controversial bill that saves both lives and Medicare money.
The community and the Administration have both shown their support for extending Medicare’s coverage limit on immunosuppressive medications, now it’s Congress’ turn. The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act, H.R. 5534 and S. 3353, has been introduced again in Congress this year and we need your voice to ensure it gets passed! Please contact your Members of Congress today and urge them to stand with kidney transplant patients and #HonorTheGift of their kidney donors and donor families.
Contact your legislators today! https://honorthegift.org/act/