1. Health

Extending Kidney Transplant Drug Funding: A Health Reform Imperative

By October 14, 2009

Anti-Rejection Drug Regimen Credit: Dr. Julian Jacobs

If you or someone you know has had a kidney transplant, you should know that Medicare has a strict 36-month limit for paying for anti-rejection drugs, which are essential for your survival and the survival of your graft. As Senators review health reform bills this week, one big question concerns whether a proposed Senate bill, S. 565 -the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2009, would extend payment for the drugs from a 36-month limit. Immunosuppressive drugs are essential for maintaining your transplant and keeping you alive.

Anti-rejection medications cost between $1,000 to $3,000 per month. Seventy percent of transplant centers report that patients have an "extremely" or "very serious" problem paying for their medications, and 68% of kidney transplant deaths or organ losses are believed to be a result of lack of access to kidney transplant medication, according to an American Society of Transplantation and United Network for Organ Sharing survey.

Continued coverage could make a huge difference in lengthening the patients' lives and transplanted kidneys. The kidney transplant community has been pushing the Senate to integrate this into health reform legislation.

You can help by asking your senator to back the bill and include it in health reform law. To locate your senator's contact information, search the Senate Roster.

October 25, 2009 at 10:57 pm
(1) Norman says:

I don’t know why people with kidney transplants whose lives depend on anti-rejection drugs are any more deserving of Medicare coverage than people whose lives depend on any other drugs.

Like lupus, for example. Amid fight for life, lupus victim fights for insurance, December 05, 2006 By Jane Zhang, The Wall Street Journal

A friend of mine on Medicare had breast cancer and her life depends on anastrazole. It’s several hundred dollars a month, and she hit the donut hole gap in drug coverage. She’ll be paying something like $5,000 a year. She’s using up her retirement savings. She was looking into buying anastrazole from Canada.

What are people supposed to do — lobby their Senators one at a time for each life-threatening disease?

Jacob Hacker, the Yale U. political scientist, said that the latest Baucus health plan would let insurers have plans with very high out of pocket costs. What if your immunosuppressive drugs cost $3,000 a month, and your copayment is 25% — or $9,000 a year? How will that affect your retirement plans?

Marcia Angell, the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, says that the only solution is a single-payer health plan. New York Times, August 12, 2009 Angell says we pay 1/3 of our health care dollar for their administrative costs and profits of the insurance industry. What benefit does the insurance industry give us for that money? Canada doesn’t even have an insurance industry, and their kidney transplant patients do fine. Is there an About.com guide for single payer?

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