4 Ways Congress is Killing the Immuno Bill

Would you like to know why the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act hasn’t passed through Congress yet?

  1. Political Sport
  2. Partisan Bickering
  3. Institutional Inactivity
  4. Re-Election Jitters

Pick one. Pick all four.

Let’s review. This legislation, known as the Immuno Bill, was introduced at the beginning of this Congress by Senate Deputy Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Ranking Senate Appropriations Committee Member Thad Cochran (R-MS), House Energy and Commerce Vice Chair of the Health Subcommittee Michael Burgess (R-TX), and veteran House Ways and Means member Ron Kind (D-WI).

Notice something? Yes, Republicans AND Democrats, joining together to offer a bipartisan, bicameral legislative solution that not only saves transplant patient's lives, but also federal dollars and overall resources. You’d think it would be acted on quickly, right?

Wrong. It’s taken SEVEN Congresses. And, while there is still time for Congress to take action, with only a few months left it looks very doubtful.

By any measure, the Immuno Bill has enjoyed an "all-star team" of senior Congressional sponsors and supporters, but the above 4 reasons have consistently prevented this bill, like so many other worthy bills, from ever being acted on and reaching the President's desk.

Here’s why.

Political Sport & Partisan Bickering
Since its most recent introduction, the Immuno Bill has attracted more than 125 co-sponsors (from both sides of the aisle in the House and Senate), it has no known opposition, and it is heavily supported by the entire transplant community. Yet, despite numerous national grass-roots campaigns, patient and provider advocacy initiatives and coordinated lobbying efforts, the bill passed the House but failed to make the cut in the Senate.

Bad luck? Hardly. Rather, I would argue that it’s a clear sign of the times – another example of a broken institution that is more focused on partisan politics and party loyalty than advancing meaningful public policy.

Institutional Inactivity
This week, Congress will return to Capitol Hill after a month-long recess… and party leaders are already discussing plans to leave town again until after the November elections. Simply put, Congress will return to Washington, DC long enough to quickly pass a temporary 6-month funding measure to keep the federal government open through March, and then immediately head back to their home states. Why? To get re-elected, of course.

Re-Election Jitters
In less than two months, voters will go to the polls to determine the political fates of all 435 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, 1/3rd of the U.S. Senate, and the White House. There is no question that 2012 has proven to be a very interesting and exciting year for politics; however that has also meant the last 2 years of this 112th Congress have proven to be long on politics and posturing, and very short on legislative results and action.

This has been a growing problem for the better part of the last two decades, and it seems quite unlikely that Congress will be able to act on ANY matter in a timely fashion if they aren’t even in session.

I realize that transplant donors and recipients are not singled out by partisan politics and Congressional inactivity. We are but a single constituency that has watched as the Congressional clock gets increasingly eaten up by politics instead of progress. It is truly a shame.

The AST has worked closely and successfully with Congress, HHS and the Executive Branch for many years on a variety of important transplant patient care regulatory and legislative policy issues. As a key go-to voice and advocate for the field of transplantation, the AST is grateful for the many dedicated Members of Congress, staffers and Agency officials that have worked tirelessly to make a difference for transplant recipients, donors and the entire community.

Unfortunately, I fear that the current political landscape and environment may carry the day and with it any chance for passage of the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2012.

Contact your Member of Congress now and encourage them to pass the Immuno Bill (S. 1454 and H.R. 2969). If they won’t listen, let them know they’ll be hearing from you again…in the voting booth.


- Roz


I agree that this is an issue that is critical to the transplant community and more important to our patients. We should apply the pressure ourselves and inform our patients to speak up as well. I'm writing my Senator and Congress members today to press for the passage of this important bill. If it fails to pass, I'll write again until it passes. I've also started engaging my patients and talking to them about the bill and encouraging them to write their representatives if they feel strongly about the issue (which they usually do).

Thanks, Roz for reigniting some urgency on this issue. It is time for all AST members to contact their legislators and whomever else might be able to weigh in on passage of THIS BILL in THIS CONGRESS. No excuses...

It is disheartening to look at the very long history of this but we cannot become discouraged. We must put pressure on Congress to get this passed this Congress. I encourage all of us to get involved and to involve our patients. They must feel our pressure.

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