Guest post from former state Sen. Rita Hart
When we talk about how we can improve health care in the US, it’s too often that people with kidney disease are left out of the discussion. Unless you or someone you’re close to is going through dialysis treatments, it can be difficult to understand just how many hoops patients have to jump through to get the level of care they need to stay alive.
It’s time for that to change, and thankfully our representatives in Iowa recognize just how much still needs to be done to help dialysis patients. Earlier this year, Congresswoman Cindy Axne introduced the Jack Reynolds Memorial Medigap Expansion Act, which would tackle some of the biggest problems facing patients head-on.
Named in honor of a lifelong Iowan and dialysis patient, this bipartisan bill would make Medigap plans more readily available to patients under 65 who have End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), which help to cover the costs traditional Medicare doesn’t cover on its own. That coverage is vital, but a lot of patients can’t get it affordably.
Right now, federal law doesn’t require insurers to offer those supplemental Medigap plans to patients under 65, so unless the state they live in already has protections for them in place, patients can end up having to pay for 20% of the costs of their dialysis treatments, which adds up quickly since patients typically need dialysis treatment three or four times every week. Iowa dialysis patients stand to especially benefit from this bill, since right now we don’t require supplemental Medigap plans to be offered to ESRD patients under 65 in Iowa. Even when those plans are offered, they’re not affordable for most patients.
Passing this bill wouldn’t inflate Medicare costs, either. A new report from Health Management Associates found that expanding Medigap access to all ESRD patients under 65 would only create about $50 million in federal spending over the next decade, largely due to increased drug expenses under Medicare Part D.
With this plan, though, more patients would be able to afford life-saving medications, without sacrificing their financial security in the process. Dialysis patients need their treatments and medications to stay alive, and they shouldn’t have to be concerned about whether they’ll be able to afford them.
By helping patients afford their medications and treatments, the bill would also help many patients finally be able to get a long-awaited kidney transplant since showing they can cover the procedure is an important step toward keeping them on the active transplant waiting list. I’m happy to see Congresswoman Axne working on this important bill, and hope her fellow representatives from both sides of the aisle can come together to finally pass the Jack Reynolds Memorial Medigap Expansion Act.
Simply put, this bill can help to address some of the biggest problems that dialysis patients face right here in Iowa and across the nation. It’s nice to see Congresswoman Axne leading the way on the Jack Reynolds Memorial Medigap Expansion Act, not only because it recognizes the legacy of one of our state’s own, but because it will help dialysis patients like him for years to come.
Kidney patients have been left out of the discussion for too long, and this is the perfect opportunity to change that. Making Medigap coverage more widely available for ESRD patients under 65 would change thousands of lives for the better. Now, it’s on Congress to pass this bill and give dialysis patients the help they’ve needed for so long.
by Rita Hart