ROCKVILLE, MD /  December 10, 2020 / The following statement may be attributed to LaVarne A. Burton, president and CEO of the American Kidney Fund:

“The American Kidney Fund (AKF) applauds Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI), Jason Smith (R-MO) and Michael Burgess (R-TX), and all Ambassadors in the AKF Advocacy Network for their work in securing U.S. House of Representatives passage of legislation giving kidney transplant recipients comprehensive immunosuppressive drug coverage. This vote marks an important milestone in gaining coverage for immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplant recipients, and AKF urges additional work by Congress to ensure the bill’s enactment before the end of the year.

“We applaud House leadership for including the immunosuppressive language in H.R. 2477, Beneficiary Enrollment Notification and Eligibility Simplification Act of 2019, or the BENES Act of 2019.

“AKF has worked tirelessly for years on this lifesaving legislation, which is more important during the COVID-19 pandemic than ever before. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs due to the coronavirus, and with their jobs, their employer-sponsored insurance. Kidney transplant recipients must maintain consistent health care coverage in order to afford their expensive immunosuppressive drugs-also known as antirejection drugs-or they face rejection of their transplanted organ and must go back on dialysis in order to survive.

“Individuals living with a kidney transplant must take immunosuppressive drugs to prevent their body from rejecting their kidney. Medicare covers immunosuppressive drugs for 36 months after the date of transplant surgery for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) beneficiaries under age 65, who are eligible for Medicare because of their ESRD status. After those three years, Medicare ends coverage for the individual and their needed medications. Kidney transplant patients who cannot find alternative health insurance and cannot afford to pay out-of-pocket for their immunosuppressive drugs will ultimately lose their kidney and must go back on dialysis, which makes them again eligible for Medicare.

“For Americans living with ESRD, transplants are usually the best and most desired treatment option. There are about 94,000 Americans currently waiting for a kidney transplant, and the wait time can be years. A transplanted kidney is immeasurably valuable to the recipient, their family and society. Patients who have a kidney transplant need to keep their transplant viable for as long as possible, and access to immunosuppressive drugs is essential to prevent rejection of the transplanted organ. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, nearly 70% of kidney transplant programs reported either a death or transplant loss because patients were unable to pay for their antirejection medications.

“Ensuring that kidney transplant recipients can keep their kidneys is good public policy, as it also provides relief for taxpayers. On November 2, the Congressional Budget Office released a report stating that the policy would reduce direct federal spending on Medicare benefits for some kidney transplant patients by $400 million over 10 years.”

“Passage of this legislation in the House is just the first step-the Senate now needs to act to pass this measure or include it in a must-pass legislative vehicle before the end of the calendar year. The American Kidney Fund will make advocating for this policy our top legislative priority as the year winds down.”

About Us

As the nation’s leading independent nonprofit working on behalf of the 37 million Americans with kidney disease, the American Kidney Fund is dedicated to ensuring that every kidney patient has access to health care, and that every person at risk for kidney disease is empowered to prevent it. AKF provides a complete spectrum of programs and services: prevention outreach, top-rated health educational resources, and direct financial assistance enabling the nation’s low-income dialysis and transplant patients to access lifesaving medical care. AKF holds the highest ratings from the nation’s charity watchdog groups, including Charity Navigator, which includes AKF on its “top 10” list of nonprofits with the longest track records of outstanding stewardship of the donated dollar, and GuideStar, which has awarded AKF its Platinum Seal of Transparency.

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SOURCE: American Kidney Fund