U.S. Senate Majority Party Leadership Releases Healthcare Reform Discussion-Draft

Friday, June 23, 2017

AST Remains Concerned for Transplant Patients, Donors and Families

On June 22nd, 2017, a discussion-draft entitled the “Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017” was released by Majority Party leadership in the U.S. Senate. The American Society of Transplantation (AST), representing the majority of professionals engaged in the field of solid organ transplantation in the U.S., is concerned that the Senate discussion-draft, as currently written, may result in negative and detrimental consequences for solid organ transplant patients, donors, and their families.

Similar to the American Health Care Act (AHCA), passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on May 4th, 2017, the Senate discussion-draft (Better Care Reconciliation Act) includes policy provisions that may undercut protections for transplant patients and the most vulnerable Americans — individuals with preexisting conditions.  More specifically, AST fears that this fragile population of patients may be subject to significant premium spikes and reduced benefits when States opt out of the current law health care coverage framework.

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) previously estimated that the House-passed legislation would result in the loss of health insurance for 24 million Americans, which would preclude their access to transplantation. End-stage organ failure patients are one of the most vulnerable groups. After thorough review of the Senate’s Better Care Reconciliation Act discussion-draft, AST finds little evidence to indicate that this proposal would adequately address the needs of transplant patients or those in need of life-saving organ transplants.

Transplantation is a life-saving therapy that allows individuals to regain their health and return to being part of the productive workforce. An ideal health care reform bill should:

1.    Increase the number people insured as this is the cheapest option for health care coverage – not unreimbursed ER visits, which function as the safety net for those without insurance.

2.    Focus on prevention. For example, the reduction in smoking has saved countless lives, a similar reduction in obesity would do the same.

3.    Coverage for pre-existing conditions – the only way to make this cost effective is to expand the number of insured, providing access to the care that would allow these individuals to remain healthy and return to the workforce.

4.    Broaden insurance, covering both what is expected and unexpected.  Even the healthiest individuals can be subject to unanticipated events that can dramatically change their health status.

5.    Offer a transparent, free market approach, so patients are aware of what is being charged and what is being paid.

6.    Cost reduction through more efficient and better care.

Transplant recipients and their families should not have to choose between their health care coverage and life's other essential necessities. Access to health care coverage only becomes a reality when the care is affordable. As such, it is essential that the U.S. Congress address the issue of patient pre-existing conditions and affordability of care in a thoughtful and thorough manner.

AST applauds and commends the efforts of those Members of Congress and Capitol Hill staff that have worked tirelessly for years to improve and strengthen our nation's health care delivery system. The AST and the transplant community have worked successfully for many years with champions on both sides of the aisle in the upper and lower chambers of Congress. Organ transplantation and the donor’s gift of life is not a partisan or political issue. Rather it is about saving, extending and preserving life.

As the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017 continues to be developed and debated in the U.S. Senate, the AST strongly encourages Senators to ensure that those most vulnerable patient populations, which includes transplant patients and those waiting for a transplant organ, are adequately addressed in any health care replacement package that moves through the upper chamber. "The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives must get this right for the sake of the nation's most vulnerable patient populations as well as the American taxpayer," stated AST President Ronald Gill, PhD. "Without a thorough and thoughtful policy approach to address the issue of pre-existing conditions, the negative repercussions will eventually be felt by us all, as a people and a government," said Dr. Gill.

As former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Tip O'Neill once famously quipped, "All Politics Are Local." Communications delivered to lawmakers from their local constituents are invaluable in the advocacy arena. For this reason, we encourage every member of the AST to email, text or call their two U.S. Senators and urge them to oppose the "Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017." As currently drafted, this legislation will have a far reaching negative impact on transplant patients, donors, and families. Click here to contact your members of Congress .