In December 2019, Representatives Ron Kind (D-WI) and Michael Burgess, M.D. (R-TX) along with Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Jason Smith (R-MO), Donald McEachin (D-VA), and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) introduced H.R. 5534, the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2019. The American Society of Transplantation (AST), representing a majority of the nation’s medical professionals in the field of organ transplantation, has been advocating for this change for over a decade and strongly supports this legislation. AST and transplant community are grateful for our House champions’ longtime support of transplant recipients, donors, and their families.
Transplant recipients are required to take immunosuppressive medications for the life of their transplanted organ to prevent organ rejection. Currently, Medicare covers these medications for just 36 months after the transplant, and many recipients are unable to afford their medications after the 36-month limit. This often leads to the unnecessary failure of the transplanted kidney, which can result in another transplant or dialysis.
The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2019 would extend Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplant recipients. Published in JASN.org on 11/7/19, Dr. Matthew Kadatz indicates that extending coverage through the duration of the transplanted organ will lead to better transplant recipient health outcomes and cost savings to the Medicare program. The report also shows that the average cost of a year of dialysis therapy is more than 30 times the cost of a year’s supply of the most commonly used immunosuppression medications prescribed to prevent kidney rejection.
AST President, Dr. Emily Blumberg, stated, “Once passed, this important patient-focused legislation will eliminate the current arbitrary 36-month Medicare coverage limit for immunosuppressive medications for transplant recipients who, without these critical drugs, may lose their transplanted organs.” Dr. Blumberg applauds the House bill sponsors for their support of transplant patients and continuing efforts to address the immunosuppressive drug coverage issue.
AST looks forward to continuing to work closely with Congress and the stakeholder community to pass this patient-focused legislation. The Society will be engaging membership in early January. Additionally, AST looks forward to the Senate introduction of immunosuppressive drug coverage legislation shortly after Congress reconvenes.