Friday, August 5, 2011

Congress considering legislation beneficial to kidney recipients

Today's Freedom Friday post is a little different from previous ones. I won't be dealing with a legislative issue that deals with the expansion or contraction of a "freedom" in the usual sense. I won't be talking about the gaining of or losing of a right. Instead, the post will be about a different type of freedom - freedom from a chronic illness and the financial freedom such healing can bring.

Unofficial seal of the United States CongressLately, all we've heard out of Congress has been bellyaching, bickering, and calling people names. So, it's good to see them finally working on some good legislation. Up until 2000, all kidney transplant recipients on Medicare only had coverage for their anti-rejection medications for 36 months after their transplant. In 2000, Congress changed that for seniors age 65 and over. Legislation was passed to give them lifetime Medicare coverage for their anti-rejection medication. I suspect the age 65 cutoff was politically motivated. Why ? Because seniors are more likely to get to the polls and vote than other age groups. However, in my opinion, that legislation was discriminatory, because if you were under 65, you still lost your Medicare anti-rejection coverage after 36 months.

Now, Congress is doing the right thing, for once, by introducing legislation which would end the discrimination and extend the same lifetime anti-rejection coverage to people under 65 on Medicare. The bill was recently introduced in the U.S. Senate and is called The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act. It is sponsored by Sen. Dick Durbin (D - Illinois), Sen. Thad Cochran (R - Mississippi), and Sen. Scott Brown (R - Massachusetts). Shortly, the companion bill will be introduced in U.S. House of Representatives by Congressman Michael Burgess (R - Texas) and Congressman Ron Kind (D - Wisconsin)

The reason for this new legislation is pretty simple. Of the approximately 111,000 Americans currently on the waiting list for a life-saving organ transplant, more than 80,000 of them are waiting on a kidney. Some of the folks currently on the list needing a kidney have been transplanted before. Unfortunately, some of them lost their transplanted kidney due to rejection when they could not afford their anti-rejection medication and must be transplanted again. Sometimes the inability to afford their medication is due to the Medicare 36 month cutoff. In my opinion, this cutoff is wasteful and whomever made the decision to institute such a cutoff years ago was foolish. There never should have been one because immunosuppressants must be taken for the rest of your life. You never get to stop them as a transplant recipient.

I am one of Congress' biggest critics. I call them on the carpet regardless of whether they are Democrats or Republicans whenever they screw up. However, in this case they are doing the right thing, so I must be fair and commend them for it. I hope they do the right thing by passing this legislation into law. Furthermore, I hope that Obama does the right thing, too, by signing it. If he does, it would be one of the few times, and perhaps the only time, he receives a compliment from The Sheepdog, because I believe the bill's passage would help insure that fewer Americans have to be re-transplanted. Therefore, more kidneys would be available for transplant resulting in fewer American lives lost each day and fewer Americans being on dialysis for long, excruciating periods of time.

Therefore, I want to encourage all members of the transplant community to take the time to e-mail or call the members of the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives that represent them, and tell them to support The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act. Tell them it's the right thing to do because kidneys, life, and the heroic, unselfish gifts of organ donors are horrible things to waste.

Contact information, including phone numbers and e-mails, for members of Congress is available :
    P.S. Before you Conservatives jump on me and say, "We can't afford this," I just ask you think about a few things for a minute. First, aren't Conservatives "pro-life" ? This bill is basically a pro-life bill because it has the potential to save the lives of not only kidney transplant recipients but others waiting on a kidney transplant. Second, what if the person who can't afford their medicine because of the 36 month cutoff is your spouse, parent, sibling, or best friend ? What if it was you ? How would you feel then ? Furthermore, how do you even put a "cost" on a human life ? The answer is simple - you can't. All human life, from the unborn to the elderly, is priceless - period.

    Source : article on titled Durbin, Cochran Introduce Legislation to Help Organ Transplant Patients   
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