Advocacy and public policy efforts were in full swing this past year and the National Kidney Foundation worked to maximize opportunities to improve kidney care. Here is a snapshot of our top advocacy activities in 2013.
The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2013 (H.R. 1428 and S. 323) reached over 100 co-sponsors before the first session of the 113th Congress came to a close on December 20th. Congress is back in session beginning January 7, 2014 and the National Kidney Foundation and its advocates will be working tirelessly to get this legislation passed. Stay tuned for new and exciting ways you can help us advocate for passage of this bill so that transplant recipients under age 65 will have improved access to anti-rejection medications.
Temporary relief from deep Medicare dialysis payment cuts and an increase in payment for home dialysis was accomplished in November 2013. In July, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposed cutting dialysis payments by over 9%. Dialysis patients around the country rallied and NKF advocates collectively sent 5,879 emails to Congress and had numerous Letters to the Editor published in local papers around the U.S. Our CEO met with Members of Congress and the Administration to discuss the impact cuts may have on patient care. In addition, one of our most active advocates, Jim Meyers, initiated a petition on NKF’s behalf opposing the cuts. The petition was signed by over 4,000 people. As a result of these advocacy efforts, CMS decided to phase in the payment cuts over 3-4 years and the average payments for 2014 will remain at the 2013 level. There is also a 50% increase in payments for home dialysis training.
NKF is hopeful that the phased-in approach to dialysis payment cuts minimizes any immediate, negative impact on patients’ access to quality care, but we continue to have concerns about the long-term effect of these cuts. We will continue to monitor this impact and of course advocate for improvements when necessary!
Medicare Special Needs Plans received a one year extension. Medicare Special Needs Plans (SNPs) are health plans for which benefits are specifically designed to meet a group of Medicare beneficiaries particular healthcare needs. Chronic SNPs target beneficiaries with chronic conditions like end-stage renal disease. These plans often provide additional benefits that Medicare fee-for-service or Medicare Advantage does not, such as zero co-pays on certain services, payment for transportation and better care coordination among beneficiaries’ providers. The National Kidney Foundation believes C-SNPs show promise in improving outcomes for people with kidney failure and other chronic conditions and therefore advocated to extend the program so that Medicare beneficiaries have this additional option.
NKF advocates participated in Federal research initiatives. NKF is always looking for opportunities for our professional and constituent members to use their experience with kidney disease to make a greater impact on improving health. As a result, we shared the opportunity for consumer representatives to participate in selecting research applications that would be funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). Three NKF members were selected to be reviewers for PCORI grant applications. In addition, the Department of Defense (DoD) contacted NKF late last year looking for kidney patients to also review research applications for funding. Two NKF constituent members were selected to review kidney related research proposals for the DoD. We are proud of our members who have taken additional time out of their schedules to share their learnings and participate in selecting groundbreaking health research projects.
National Kidney Foundation Advocates met with a number of Members of Congress. On March 14, 2013 World Kidney Day, 21 NKF advocates traveled to Washington, DC and participated in numerous meetings with legislators to talk about The Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act of 2013. This year, NKF advocates will make a splash on the Hill to raise awareness about the importance of early detection and diagnosis of kidney disease. If you are interested in participating, you can find out more here.
Clearly, NKF needs more people like you to sign up to be an advocate to improve kidney care. Our collective voice makes a difference in Washington and helps us achieve more than we could alone. Once you join our advocacy network, you will receive time-sensitive action alerts and may be contacted to participate in local and national advocacy activities.