Kidney Community Lauds Bi-Partisan Legislation to Enhance Research, Expand Choice, and Improve Care Coordination for People with Kidney Disease

June 9, 2014

Bill introduced by Representatives Tom Marino and John Lewis would improve lives of kidney patients

WASHINGTON, DC – Kidney Care Partners (KCP) today praised Representatives Tom Marino (R-PA) and John Lewis (D-GA) for introducing “The Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research and Treatment Act (H.R. 4814),” a bill supporting improvements in the research, treatment and care of chronic kidney disease to benefit more than 615,800 Americans living with kidney failure which is known as end-stage renal disease, or ESRD. Of those, 430,000 rely on life-sustaining dialysis care to survive. KCP is a broad-based coalition of patient advocates, clinicians, care professionals, dialysis providers, researchers and manufacturers working together to improve quality of care for individuals with chronic kidney disease (CKD) and ESRD.

Currently, 31 million Americans have some form of kidney disease and are at risk of developing kidney failure absent some form of disease management education or preventive care. Each year, more than 100,000 Americans are diagnosed with ESRD and require a kidney transplant or dialysis — usually three times a week for several hours per treatment in order to survive. A kidney transplant or renal dialysis are the only treatment options.

Due to the limited number of kidneys available for transplantation, most individuals with ESRD receive dialysis, which is covered by the Medicare program, regardless of the individual’s age. Advocates have long stressed that federal policies are needed to provide stability to America’s dialysis care infrastructure, to increase research into CKD and to ensure access to life-sustaining dialysis.

“This bill is important because it provides a blueprint for the future of the ESRD program” said Dr. Ed Jones, Chairman of Kidney Care Partners and a practicing nephrologist. “By supporting coordinated research programs, greater patient choice, and economic stability, this legislation would strengthen the delivery of care for millions of Americans living with kidney disease.”

Specifically, The Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research and Treatment Act would:

(1) Improve understanding of kidney disease: The legislation would identify the gaps in critical research and improve the coordination of federal research efforts. The bill would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) submit a report on ways to improve care management, including progression of kidney disease and treatment of kidney failure in minority populations, who are disproportionally impacted by kidney disease. The bill directs the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary to evaluate and report on the biological, social, and behavioral factors that affect care.

(2) Improve beneficiary access to treatments for kidney disease: The bill would improve access to pre-dialysis kidney disease education programs to better manage patients’ disease condition and even prevent kidney failure. Nephrologists and other health professionals would also be incentivized to work in underserved rural and urban areas, and current payment policies would be modified to encourage home dialysis, which is not incentivized under the current Medicare payment structure. Patients with acute kidney failure would also be allowed to receive treatments through dialysis providers, therefore reducing costs associated with care provided in the more expensive hospital outpatient setting.

(3) Expand patient choice and improve the coordination of care: The legislation would expand the options for patients by allowing individuals diagnosed with kidney failure to enroll in the Medicare Advantage program. It would also reauthorize on a permanent basis the Special Needs plan for patients with kidney failure, as well as extend the length of time beneficiaries may choose to maintain their existing insurance coverage. Most importantly, the legislation looks to the future by establishing a voluntary coordinated care program. The coordinated care program would allow doctors and dialysis facilities to work together to improve the coordination of care and reduce costly hospitalization.

“The kidney community applauds Representatives Marino and Lewis for their long-time leadership and ongoing efforts to protect our nation’s most vulnerable patient population, and we look forward to working with Congress to advance this important legislation,” added Dr. Jones. “The Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research and Treatment Act ensures that individuals with kidney disease have the tools, resources, and care they need to live life to the fullest today and into the future.”