Reps. Camp, Kind Join with National Kidney Foundation to Modernize Medicare's Treatment of Kidney Transplant Patients

Washington, DC (March 10, 2009) - Today, Ranking Member of the House Ways and Means Committee Dave Camp (R-MI) and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-WI) introduced the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act. The bill would extend Medicare's coverage of immunosuppressive drugs, which prevents the rejection of transplanted kidneys by a recipient’s body.

"Instead of allowing patients to fall back on painful and costly dialysis, it is time for Medicare to prevent that cruel cycle in the first place," said Camp. "The full utilization of immunosuppressive drugs in Medicare's ESRD program is long overdue. As Benjamin Franklin noted, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. While that is certainly true in this case, nothing is worth more than the needless pain and suffering we will eliminate by providing these critical medicines."

"This is a perfect example of the ways we need to be smarter with Medicare," Rep. Kind said. "It is nonsensical why Medicare would pay for a costly transplant, only to risk sending the patient back to dialysis again when Medicare stops covering the medication they need. These patients are covered by Medicare in the first place because the cost of their treatment makes them unlikely candidates for private insurance. This commonsense reform will not only make a huge difference in the lives of transplant survivors, but by covering these preventive medications we will actually save money down the road."

Under current law, Medicare (the nation's health care program for seniors) covers dialysis treatments for those suffering from End Stage Renal Disease regardless of patient's age. Medicare will additionally cover the cost of kidney transplants for ESRD patients. Once a patient receives a new kidney, they must take immunosuppressive medications for the rest of their lives. However, Medicare will only cover these anti-rejection drugs for 36 months. Perversely, those who cannot afford these costly drugs again experience kidney failure and must return to dialysis, which Medicare would again cover.

While dialysis costs approximately $60,000 a year, immunosuppressive drugs cost about $15,000. The Camp-Kind bill would remove the time limitation for ESRD beneficiaries, keeping them Medicare eligible only for those drugs and no other services.

"The National Kidney Foundation supports this critically important legislation," says John Davis, National Kidney Foundation CEO. "This bill will ensure that thousands of Americans can maintain the transplants they have, allow thousands more to be transplanted and reduce the need for re-transplants of people who can no longer pay for vital medication and end up back on the waiting list. This legislation is a major first step towards accomplishing the goal of the National Kidney Foundation's END THE WAIT! initiative to find solutions to the organ shortage and eliminate the all-too-long wait for a transplant."

Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Thad Cochran (R-MS) have introduce similar legislation in the Senate.