Thursday, February 11, 2010

Georgia Dialysis Patients, Legislators Rally Around Bill to Improve Patient Access to Dialysis and Transplants; Lauded as “Good for Patients, Good for

(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dialysis Patient Citizens today praised the Senate Insurance and Labor Committee for unanimously passing legislation – S.B. 316 – which will increase patient access to life-saving dialysis care or transplant medications. Dialysis patients attending yesterday’s hearing encouraged lawmakers to support the bill which, if enacted, would greatly help approximately 2,000 Georgians suffering from kidney failure who are having difficulty accessing health insurance. Twenty-nine states across the country have enacted this popular legislation that is widely embraced by patients, family members and taxpayers.

“I would have better access to preventative care and it would increase my ability to seek treatment early.”

NBA All-Star Alonzo Mourning, a kidney transplant patient who returned to the NBA to win the national championship after his transplant, is planning to visit Georgia legislators in March on behalf of dialysis and transplant patients to advocate for this important legislation as he did in Florida in 2009. Similar bipartisan legislation passed in the Florida legislature last year and was signed into law by Governor Charlie Crist. Approximately 500 Florida patients can now purchase MediGap insurance, helping those who can’t afford co-pays and deductibles for medications and dialysis care avoid financial hardship.

Currently, Georgians under age 65 with end state renal disease (ESRD), better known as kidney failure, do not have access to secondary coverage – known as Medigap insurance – to help pay for medical expenses that Medicare does not cover, such as co-insurance, deductibles and co-pays. Under current federal law, only Medicare beneficiaries over the age of 65 are able to purchase this insurance as secondary coverage. This coverage helps patients with kidney failure and those deemed disabled access essential medical treatments, including kidney transplants, without cost being a barrier to care.

“If I had access to secondary coverage, it would alleviate the anxiety I feel when making decisions regarding my health” said Eric Edwards, an Atlanta-area ESRD patient and Dialysis Patient Citizens (DPC) patient ambassador who attended yesterday’s hearing. “I would have better access to preventative care and it would increase my ability to seek treatment early.”

Additionally, Medigap coverage protects patients from having to “spend down” their income to become eligible for state Medicaid assistance. If enacted, fewer people will be forced to enter the state Medicaid program, resulting in an estimated $20 million of Medicaid savings over the next five years for Georgia and protecting taxpayers from higher program costs.

“It is critical for legislators to understand the vital importance of Medigap access for all kidney failure patients because for thousands of patients throughout the state, life depends on quality kidney care,” added Chad Lennox, Executive Director of DPC. “The patient community is dedicated to working with lawmakers across the state to ensure that this smart, patient-centric legislation is enacted without delay.”

The bill will now advance to the Senate Rules Committee before going to the Senate floor. The full bill is available at

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