HHS Secretary Azar Speaks on Transforming Kidney Care at the Kidney Patient Summit

Secretary of Health and Human Services announces HHS plan to improve outcomes for kidney patients
New York, NY, March 4, 2019—The Secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services Alex M. Azar II (pictured, left, with National Kidney Foundation CEO Kevin Longino) today announced his vision for kidney care at the 6th Annual Kidney Patient Summit, led by the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), which is being held March 4th and 5th in Washington, DC.  Speaking during the advocacy training day for the more than 100 kidney patients and family members attending the Summit, Secretary Azar announced what the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is doing to improve outcomes for kidney patients.  Read the Secretary’s speech here.
During his speech today at the Holiday Inn Washington-Capitol, Secretary Azar announced a goal of changing the Medicare reimbursement payment methods to encourage a shift towards home dialysis and kidney transplants for end stage renal disease (ESRD) patients. The model is also expected to impact the earlier treatment of kidney disease.
“Secretary Azar’s passionate commitment to helping kidney patients, especially ESRD patients who need dialysis or a transplant to survive, is both significant and encouraging,” said Kevin Longino, Chief Executive Officer of the National Kidney Foundation and a kidney transplant patient. “Kidney transplantation is the best possible outcome for most ESRD patients, but for those patients not eligible for a transplant, dialysis is still needed. Home dialysis is a far less intrusive option than in-center dialysis giving patients a better quality of life.” The National Kidney Foundation recently hosted a Conference on Home Dialysis which brought together leading kidney professionals, patients and caregivers to work through ways to remove barriers to home dialysis.
Secretary Azar also discussed how the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is working to achieve better and more cost-effective ways to deliver dialysis to people in times of emergencies, such as natural disasters. He also discussed changes in what is considered a “high risk” kidney to ensure more patients can benefit from a transplant. He announced that HHS technical experts will be submitting scientific evidence next month to offer new opportunities to improve organ utilization. A recent paper published in Clinical Transplantation, the Journal of Clinical and Translational Research, Report of National Kidney Foundation Consensus Conference to Decrease Kidney Discards” outlined specific steps towards solving the kidney utilization problem. The paper was a result of the National Kidney Foundation Consensus Conference to Decrease Kidney Discards.
Finally, Secretary Azar discussed the National Living Donor Assistance Center (NLDAC) program which compensates living donors for travel and other expenses related to donation, along with a new pilot launching this summer through the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Division of Transplantation which would cover lost wages to living organ donors. Recognizing that transplants are not a cure for kidney disease, the Secretary also noted that investment in future technologies to help create more choices for patients who require dialysis is essential. The Secretary discussed KidneyX, aimed at accelerating innovation in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of kidney diseases. The first prize for innovation in “Redesign Dialysis” will be awarded soon.
”The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is clearly charting a path towards making progress in prevention, early detection, treatment, research and access to transplantation; all critical issues for kidney patients, and they are doing this in a strategic, thoughtful and expedited way,” added Longino. “On behalf of kidney patients through the nation, we applaud Secretary Azar for his vision and leadership and look forward to continued collaboration in advancing our shared goals.”
About the Kidney Patient Summit
The Kidney Patient Summit, led by the National Kidney Foundation, brings together advocates from across the country representing several kidney patient groups, to meet with lawmakers on Capitol Hill to push for early detection, living organ donation, and more funding to fight kidney disease. Over the course of two-days, March 4th and 5th, advocates share their stories and urge Members of Congress to support public policy priorities which advance CKD prevention, early detection, treatment, research, and access to transplants, including living organ donation.
About National Kidney Foundation Living Organ Donation Resources:
THE BIG ASK: THE BIG GIVE platform, which provides nationwide outreach, is designed to increase kidney transplantation through training and tools that help patients and families find a living donor. It includes direct patient and caregiver support through our toll-free help line 855.NKF.CARES (855.653.2273), peer mentoring from a fellow kidney patient or a living donor, online communities, an advocacy campaign to remove barriers to donation, and a multi-media public awareness campaign. All resources are free and designed to teach kidney patients, or their advocates, how to make a “big ask” to their friends, loved ones, or community to consider making a “big give,” a living organ donation.
About Kidney Disease
In the United States 30 million adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease—and most aren’t aware of it. 1 in 3 American adults are at risk for chronic kidney disease. Risk factors for kidney disease include diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and family history. People of African American, Hispanic, Native American, Asian or Pacific Islander descent are at increased risk for developing the disease. African Americans are 3 times more likely than Whites, and Hispanics are nearly 1.5 times more likely than non-Hispanics to develop end stage renal disease (kidney failure).
Nearly 680,000 Americans have irreversible kidney failure, or end-stage renal disease (ESRD), and need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. More than 475,000 ESRD patients receive dialysis at least three times per week to replace kidney function. Nearly 100,000 Americans are on the waitlist for a kidney transplant right now. Depending on where a patient lives, the average wait time for a kidney transplant can be upwards of three to seven years. Living organ donation not only saves lives, it saves money. Each year, Medicare spends $87,000 per dialysis patient and less than half, $32,500, for a transplant patient.
The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is the largest, most comprehensive and longstanding organization dedicated to the awareness, prevention and treatment of kidney disease. For more information about NKF visit www.kidney.org.