Nation’s Kidney Community Applauds Introduction of Legislation to Expand Access to Treatments for Individuals with Kidney Transplants

February 28, 2020

Bipartisan, Bicameral Legislation Would Extend Medicare Coverage of Immunosuppressive Drugs for Individuals with Kidney Transplants

WASHINGTON, DC – Kidney Care Partners (KCP) – the nation’s leading kidney care multi-stakeholder coalition representing patient advocates, physician organizations, health professional groups, dialysis providers, researchers and manufacturers – today praised the introduction of the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2019 (S. 3353) in the Senate. The bill, introduced by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), follows the December introduction of a companion bill in the House (H.R. 5534) sponsored by Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Michael Burgess (R-TX).

End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) is an irreversible failure of kidney function that is fatal without kidney transplantation or dialysis treatments. Individuals who are fortunate enough to have received a kidney transplant from a living or cadaver donor receive immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their lives. These drugs prevent the recipient’s immune system from attacking the donor organ, which is perceived as a foreign body. With kidney availabilities in such short supply and more than 100,000 individuals on transplant waiting lists, it is important to maintain transplant viability to avoid additional strain on the system for re-transplantations or returning to dialysis care.

However, due to high out-of-pocket costs and Medicare coverage that is restricted to 36 months post-transplant, Medicare beneficiaries – especially the most vulnerable with limited financial resources – can be forced to skip or ration doses when coverage runs out. Skipping even one dose can increase the odds of organ failure. The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act will extend Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs by removing the 36-month restriction.

“Kidney Care Partners welcomes this compassionate, bipartisan legislation would expand access to these critical drugs that prevent rejection of a transplanted kidney, allowing transplant recipients quality of life and peace of mind,” said John Butler, Chair of KCP. “This policy not only benefits transplant recipients and their loved ones, but also taxpayers and the Medicare program by reducing the probability of returning to dialysis following rejection, including associated medical costs to the nation’s healthcare system when a kidney fails.”