Transplant Bill Passes Congress

New York, NY (November 23, 1999) - Congress passed legislation that would extend Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs taken daily by transplant recipients, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) announced. The provision was approved by the House and Senate late last week. The bill will extend coverage for transplant recipients, who are Medicare-eligible based on age or disability, for eight months in 2000 and for a minimum of eight months in each of the following four years. Grassroots advocacy efforts mounted by NKF members, and patients and families across the country helped generate the groundswell of support for this bill.

An extension of Immunosuppressive Drugs was included included in the $385 billion omnibus spending budget through the efforts of Rep. Thomas Bliley (R-VA), Chairman of the House Commerce Committee Congress, Rep. Charles Canady (R-FL) and Rep. Karen Thurman (D-FL).

Medicare covers the cost of immunosuppressive medications, which help prevent organ rejection, for the first three years after a transplant. After that, patients must pay for the drugs themselves unless they are fortunate enough to have private medical insurance that provides such coverage or qualify for state assistance programs. For kidney transplant recipients, for example, the drugs cost an average of $11,000 a year. The provision would extend Medicare coverage for transplant recipients who are Medicare eligible.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, transplantation is the treatment of choice for many patients with irreversible kidney failure who are freed from the burden of dialysis treatments three times per week. However, patients may lose their transplants if they cannot afford the medications that must be taken daily for life. The consequence for kidney patients is a return to dialysis or a second transplant; in the case of heart, liver or lung recipients, it results in the need for a second transplant or possibly death if a new organ does not become available in time.

The President is expected to sign the legislation.

The National Kidney Foundation is dedicated to preventing and treating kidney and urinary tract disease, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.

For more information visit the NKF Office of Scientific and Public Policy section of our site.