AST Member Action Alert! Immuno Bill Reintroduced in the Senate

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Last night, the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act was reintroduced in the US Senate with the bi-partisan support of Senators Richard Durbin (D-IL) and Thad Cochran (R-Miss). This legislation (S.323), which AST has been fighting to pass for years, will finally eliminate the current arbitrary 36-month limit on immunosuppressive drug coverage imposed on Medicare end stage renal disease (ESRD) beneficiaries. Click here to read the press release from Senator Durbin's office with a quote from AST President Dr. Roslyn Mannon.

We need your help! Now is the time for action! Call your Senator's office today - let them know how strongly you feel and tell them you have their back! The number for the Senate switchboard is (202) 224-3121. When you call, ask to speak with the Legislative Assistant for Healthcare. Here is what you can say:

  • Currently, Medicare Part B coverage of immunosuppressive drugs ends 36 months after the patient receives their transplant but, patients are required to take immunosuppressives indefinitely in order to preserve their gift of life.
  • Patients often find themselves unable to afford their medications once Medicare drug coverage lapses and they are often forced to begin reducing their medications or forego them altogether, eventually resulting in a completely unnecessary failure of the transplanted kidney.
  • If the transplant fails, patients return to dialysis or are re-transplanted. Medicare spends more than $86,000 per year on a dialysis patient and these patients are eligible for Medicare indefinitely. However, the average annual Medicare expenditure for a kidney transplant recipient after the year of transplant is $24,000!
  • Not only does removal of the arbitrary time limit on immunosuppressive drug coverage make financial sense, the unnecessary human toll as a result of the current policy is tragic and unconscionable.
  • The Durbin-Cochran legislation introduced last night only grants a beneficiary access to the Medicare Part B immunosuppressive drug coverage benefit (not to other Medicare services), and provides that these individuals are responsible for only that portion of the Part B premium which covers the immunosuppressive benefit.
  • Consequently, patients will only choose this option as a last resort. This legislation has always been seen as a "coverage backstop" to provide immunosuppressive drug coverage only when a patient has no other form of coverage.
  • It is not sound public policy or cost effective for Medicare to cover a kidney transplant and then stop immunosuppressive coverage after 36 months - which can lead to someone rejecting the transplanted organ.

This is your moment. We've all worked hard to get here and this is the year we will finally pass this vital legislation. Call your Senator's office today!