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Reps. Kind and Burgess Introduce Legislation to Protect Kidney Transplant Recipients

January 7, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC— Reps. Ron Kind (D-WI) and Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) recently introduced H.R. 5534, the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2019. This bipartisan legislation would improve coverage under Medicare for immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplant patients. The bill is scheduled to be considered this week before the House Committee on Energy & Commerce.

“Patients and their families shouldn’t have to worry about whether or not they can afford the treatment needed to help keep their transplanted kidney. We need to do more to lower costs for these patients, which is exactly what my colleagues and I have worked together to do,” said Rep. Ron Kind. “This bill will provide kidney transplant patients continued access to medication to ensure the success of their transplant while keeping health care costs down by decreasing the need for further dialysis and the likelihood of a re-transplant.”

“Patients have enough to be concerned about when undergoing an organ transplant and enduring the length of recovery; they should not have to worry that a mandate from the federal government would prevent them from receiving medication they need,” said Rep. Burgess. “They should not have to sacrifice quality care due to the federal policy that denies coverage for anti-rejection drugs after 36 months. It is important to reintroduce this commonsense, bipartisan policy that will safeguard both patients and taxpayer dollars by preventing more costly alternatives such as organ rejection or return to dialysis.”

“Newly introduced legislation to extend Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplant patients will not only save lives but save taxpayers money," said National Kidney Foundation CEO Kevin Longino, and kidney transplant recipient. "When patients cannot afford their medication, they often skip doses or are forced to make difficult choices between paying for basic necessities and paying for medicine they need to prevent organ failure. This legislation will put an end to that practice, or unintended consequence." 

“This legislation is vital for kidney patients just like me,” said Mary Baliker, a kidney transplant recipient, patient advocate, and Wisconsinite. “Despite having good health insurance and working for a hospital, I still went into tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of debt to pay for my immunosuppressant drugs when my Medicare coverage ran out. I was straight out of college and had no choice but to purchase my lifesaving drugs with credit card after credit card.  I am thankful for the new legislation. We must change this now."

H.R. 5534, the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2019, would extend Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplant recipients beyond the current limit when the individual has no other coverage. Currently, individuals eligible for Medicare due to permanent kidney failure lose their immunosuppressive drug coverage 36 months after a transplant. This can lead to patients not being able to afford their medications and increase the risk of organ rejection. H.R. 5534 would permanently remove the 36-month limit. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services estimates that this policy will result in significant Medicare savings.

H.R. 5534 will be considered during a legislative hearing before the Health Subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce on Wednesday, January 8th at 10:00 am.