Press release

American Kidney Fund applauds groundbreaking and crucial passage of comprehensive immunosuppressive drug coverage for kidney transplant recipients by the U.S. House of Representatives

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 anti-rejection 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 the American Kidney Fund

The American Kidney Fund (AKF) fights kidney disease on all fronts as the nation’s leading kidney nonprofit. AKF works on behalf of the 37 million Americans living with kidney disease, and the millions more at risk, with an unmatched scope of programs that support people wherever they are in their fight against kidney disease—from prevention through transplant. With programs that address early detection, disease management, financial assistance, clinical research, innovation and advocacy, no kidney organization impacts more lives than AKF. One of the nation’s top-rated nonprofits, AKF invests 97 cents of every donated dollar in programs, earning the highest 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator for 20 years in a row as well as the Platinum Seal of Transparency from Candid, formerly GuideStar.

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