Kidney transplant recipients require daily, lifelong immunosuppressive medications to reduce the likelihood of organ rejection. Under current law, Medicare covers the cost of a kidney transplant, but only pays for anti-rejection medication for three years. After Medicare drops their coverage, transplant patients who aren’t fortunate enough to find affordable insurance are left to cover the cost of the medication on their own.
Without the immunosuppressive drugs to prevent rejection, many patients find themselves back in a risky and frightening place – in need of a new kidney and having to go back on dialysis. Dialysis is a costly treatment that reduces overall health outcomes and quality of life. Dialysis costs Medicare $86,300 per patient per year, whereas anti-rejection medications only cost Medicare $9,000. The choice is clear. Everyone loses when a kidney transplant fails because of lack of immunosuppressive drug access. The current policy costs Medicare more in the long run, decreases ESRD patients’ quality of life, and fails to honor the sacrifice of the donor.
Medicare’s coverage limits cannot be justified morally, medically, or economically, and they must be changed. Congress can and should do more to protect people living with transplants, honor their donors, and save Medicare money.
It’s time to ensure Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplant patients.