NKF Commemorates 35th Anniversary of Medicare ESRD Program

The National Kidney Foundation recognizes the 35th anniversary of the landmark Medicare End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) Program which went into effect on July 1, 1973. This legislation, Public Law 92-603, signed by President Richard Nixon, provides near universal coverage under Medicare for every patient suffering from kidney failure, regardless of age or prior disability, and has since benefited millions of kidney patients and their families.

"This program is responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of lives through dialysis and kidney transplantation," says John Davis, NKF CEO. "Today we express gratitude, on behalf of those patients, to the government of the United States that committed substantial resources to this one-of-a-kind program that continues to provide access to life-saving treatment for those in need."

According to the United States Renal Data System (USRDS), the ESRD Program at its inception was expected to plateau at 40,000 patients. ESRD was considered a rare disease as defined by the Orphan Drug Act of 1983. However, this definition became outdated when ESRD patients exceeded 200,000 in 1990. Now there are over 400,000 people in the US with ESRD. In 2005, Medicare costs for ESRD patients neared $21 billion, approximately 6.4 percent of the entire Medicare budget.

According to Celeste Lee, an active member of NKF’s People Like Us patient advocacy group who has lived with kidney failure for the last 24 years, "when I was diagnosed with kidney failure as a young 17 year old woman, I had no idea what life had in store for me. But, thanks in large part to the Medicare ESRD program, I have been able to live a life filled with joy, family, wrinkles and a humble appreciation of the society in which I proudly live."

To read about NKF’s advocacy activities in ESRD click here.