423) Take Action Now!

September 23, 2011

On Tuesday, September 20, Representatives Michael Burgess (TX) and Ron Kind (WI) introduced the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2011 (H.R. 2969). Eighteen other Representatives joined them as original co-sponsors.  H.R. 2969 is the much anticipated House version of S. 1454, which was introduced in the Senate in late July.
Letter sent just now to my legislators:
"As your constituent and on behalf of the more than 600,000 Americans living with polycystic kidney disease (PKD), one of the world's most prevalent and life-threatening genetic diseases, I urge you to co-sponsor the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2011 (H.R. 2969) recently introduced by Representatives Michael Burgess (TX) and Ron Kind (WI).

I am currently taking immunosuppressive medications, after my successful kidney transplant in March, 2009.  My own coverage will end in March of 2012.  Estimated cost (co-pay) of my meds at current prices is (with my excellent insurance coverage) will be $3132 per year.  Without medical insurance to help defray the costs, current costs of these medications today (9-21-11) is $7868 a year (for MY dosages) or $650 per month.
Many people think that switching from the name meds to generics saves people from paying so much, but according to my transplant doctor and team, generics cannot be trusted to interact the same way over time, nor can their interactions with the other necessary medications be completely assessed until sometimes too late.  These are my personal reasons for asking you to support this important piece of legislation.

H.R. 2969 is important bipartisan and bicameral legislation that will ensure kidney transplant recipients are able to maintain Medicare Part B coverage of immunosuppressive drugs necessary to avoid organ rejection and a return to more costly treatments. Medicare covers the full cost of dialysis for a patient�s lifetime; however, under current Medicare coverage policy, Medicare will only pay for necessary immunosuppressive drugs for 36 months post-transplantation. Once the 36-month period ends, kidney transplant patients are forced to find other ways to pay for expensive immunosuppressive medications.

According to data from the 2010 Annual Data Report of the U.S. Renal Data System, extending Medicare coverage for immunosuppressive drugs ($15,000-$20,000 per year) is far less costly to Medicare than a patient returning to dialysis ($76,000 per year) or receiving another transplant ($100,000-$125,000). As of July 1, 2011, the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) reports that more than 89,000 people are on the kidney transplant wait list. Of this 89,000, approximately 5,000 are PKD patients.

Given the cost data and numbers of those awaiting a transplant, the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act makes for good policy and will provide a long term savings to Medicare. Furthermore, kidney transplant patients will no long have to worry about how to pay for these important medications. Now is the time to change this outdated Medicare policy and provide lifelong access to these vital drugs, and I urge you to co-sponsor H.R. 2969."