September 29, 2017

Cardin, Blunt Introduce Legislation to Help Patients with Kidney Disease

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) have joined together to introduce legislation that aims to protect and improve the delivery of high-quality care for patients with kidney disease. S.1890, the Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research and Treatment Act, would promote research, expand patient choice, and improve care coordination for hundreds of thousands of patients.

Kidney disease is the 9th leading cause of death in the United States and more than 1 in 10 Americans today suffer from some form of kidney disease. More than 661,000 Americans are living with kidney failure or end-stage renal disease, which is an irreversible condition that can be fatal without a kidney transplant or life-sustaining dialysis. Of these, 468,000 patients in our country rely on life-sustaining dialysis care to survive and roughly 193,000 live with a functioning kidney transplant.

“With this legislation, we have the ability to make a real difference in the lives of Americans suffering from chronic kidney disease,” said Senator Cardin.

“Chronic kidney disease is a challenging diagnosis that requires a lifetime of specialized care,” said Senator Blunt. “This bill will help improve access to care and provide additional support for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are battling the disease.” 

The Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research and Treatment Act (S. 1890)

The Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research and Treatment Act protects and improves the delivery of high-quality of care for patients with kidney disease. The bill:

  • Allows patients with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans starting in 2020, rather than 2021.
  • Permanently reauthorizes Medicare Advantage Special Needs Plan for ESRD, allowing improved care coordination for patients with kidney failure.
  • Allows individuals who have commercial insurance through an employer to retain that insurance for an additional 12 months, giving them the ability to decide whether to keep their existing insurance for up to 42 months. 
  • Guarantees access to Medigap policies to all ESRD beneficiaries, regardless of age.
  • Most Medicare patients under 65, whether disabled or ESRD beneficiaries, do not have access to Medigap insurance, even though Medicare is their primary insurance. Currently, Part B beneficiaries are subject to a 20 percent coinsurance and deductible ($166 in 2016), which is unaffordable to many ESRD beneficiaries.
  • Expands access to telemedicine services for home dialysis patients by allowing dialysis facilities and the patient’s home to be approved sites of services. This provision was also included in the CHRONIC Care Act.
  • Allows dialysis facilities to provide kidney disease education services and allows physician assistants, nurse practitioners, or clinical nurse specialists to refer individuals to those services.
  • Clarifies that nephrologists and non-physician practitioners who provide dialysis services in underserved rural and/or urban areas may participate in the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program and Loan Repayment Program.
  • Allows dialysis centers to use national accrediting bodies to certify that they meet participation guidelines.
  • Requires the Government Accountability Office to assess the utilization of palliative care on the quality of treatment outcomes of patients with ESRD. Requires HHS to report on: (1) the causes of kidney disease and efforts to treat kidney disease in minority populations, and (2) disincentives in Medicare payment systems that create barriers to kidney transplants and post-transplant care for beneficiaries with ESRD.