Congress ACTING On Transplant Catch-22

Though it seems incredible, Medicare coverage for the anti-rejection drugs for kidney transplant recipients currently stops 36 months following the transplant. For those patients unable to afford these immunosuppressive medications (that cost between $10,000 and $20,000 yearly) a crisis may lead to rejection and loss of the kidney. With recurrence of kidney failure and resumption of dialysis, Medicare kicks in again – at a much higher cost of roughly $70,000 per year.  What a ridiculous catch-22!

I had the privilege of leading the American Society of Transplant Surgeon’s (ASTS) Legislative Committee for 3 years and am thrilled to report that after years of collective efforts on the parts of ASTS and other collaborating organizations, Congress is taking steps to fix this problem. The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage Act of 2013 was introduced by U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) on Feb. 13 and was referred to the Senate Finance Committee. http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/113/s323.  Nephrology News & Issues reports that a House version of the bill is expected to be introduced in the next few weeks. http://www.nephrologynews.com/articles/109339-bill-introduced-to-extend-coverage-of-transplant-drugs.

Nephrology News & Issues also reports that Senators Inouye (D-Hawaii), Schumer (D-NY), Levin (D-Mich) and Cardin (D-Md) have signed on as co-sponsors.  If your Senator s) have not yet signed on, why not take a moment to call their office or e-mail them to express support for this important bill. One of the key things I learned about the legislative process is that politicians DO listen to their constituents, particularly when large numbers express the same opinion. Follow the bill’s process at the government website (see above) – be informed and speak up to improve the system.

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