Kidney Community Applauds Bipartisan Senate Legislation to Improve and Expand Access to Kidney Care Treatments, Improve Quality of Life for Individuals with Kidney Disease and Kidney Failure

September 29, 2017

WASHINGTON, DC – Kidney Care Partners (KCP) – the nation’s largest kidney coalition comprised of physician groups, providers, patient groups, manufacturers and researchers – today praised the introduction of Senate Bill 1890, “Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research and Treatment Act” – a bill to improve the understanding of, and promote access to treatment for, chronic kidney and end-stage renal disease (ESRD), or kidney failure.   The legislation was introduced by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD), Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).

Kidney Care Partners stated that the bill, if passed, would elevate care, expand access and promote research to the more than 660,000 Americans living with kidney failure.  “The kidney community applauds Senators Cardin, Blunt, and Nelson for their leadership in protecting this patient population with serious health conditions,” said Dr. Frank Maddux, chair of Kidney Care Partners. “We look forward to our continued work with bipartisan lawmakers in both the Senate and the House to ensure that individuals with kidney disease have the resources and care they need to live quality, healthy lives.”

Specifically, the legislation does the following:

  • Allows patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans starting in 2020, rather than 2021.
  • Permanently reauthorizes Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan for ESRD, allowing improved care coordination for patients with kidney failure.
  • Allows individuals who have commercial insurance through an employer to retain that insurance for an additional 12 months, giving them the ability to decide whether to keep their existing insurance for up to 42 months.
  • Guarantees access to Medigap policies to all ESRD beneficiaries, regardless of age.
    • Most Medicare patients under 65, whether disabled or ESRD beneficiaries, do not have access to Medigap insurance, even though Medicare is their primary insurance. Currently, Part B beneficiaries are subject to a 20 percent coinsurance and deductible ($166 in 2016), which is unaffordable to many ESRD beneficiaries.
  • Expands access to telemedicine services for home dialysis patients by allowing dialysis facilities and the patient’s home to be approved sites of services.
  • Allows dialysis facilities to provide kidney disease education services and allows physician assistants, nurse practitioners, or clinical nurse specialists to refer individuals to those services.
  • Clarifies that nephrologists and non-physician practitioners who provide dialysis services in underserved rural and/or urban areas may participate in the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program and Loan Repayment Program.
  • Allows dialysis centers to use national accrediting bodies to certify that they meet participation guidelines.
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to assess the utilization of palliative care on the quality of treatment outcomes of patients with ESRD. Requires HHS to report on: (1) the causes of kidney disease and efforts to treat kidney disease in minority populations, and (2) disincentives in Medicare payment systems that create barriers to kidney transplants and post-transplant care for beneficiaries with ESRD.

“The Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research and Treatment Act provides a clear roadmap for the future and stability of Medicare’s ESRD program,” added Dr. Maddux.  “By supporting increased research, expanded patient choice, and improved quality and care outcomes, this legislation will strengthen the care delivery for millions of individuals living with chronic kidney disease and ESRD.”