In an editorial released on June 23rd by The Hill ASN President Anupam Agarwal, MD, FASN and NKF President Kramer, MD, MPH expressed that the intersection of COVID-19 and kidney disease is fraught with potential calamities and investment for prevention and research are necessary.
“Kidney patients – including those with kidney failure receiving dialysis and transplant recipients – are more at risk from SARS-CoV-2 exposure because of their vulnerable physical conditions, weakened immune systems, and the open settings in which they receive care. Data has shown that people with kidney diseases were 2.5 times more likely to die than other hospitalized patients with COVID-19. And recent data released from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services showed that kidney disease patients undergoing dialysis were hospitalized with COVID-19 at a rate of 1,341 hospitalizations per 100,000 beneficiaries, the highest hospitalization rate among all Medicare beneficiaries. In fact, the first few deaths that occurred in the state of Washington were patients with kidney disease. Kidney disease also disproportionately affects minority populations, a population at higher risk for COVID-19 and COVID-19 associated mortality compared to non-minority populations,” states the editorial.
Calling attention to the unique needs of kidney patients in the COVID-19 Pandemic and advocating for specific policy changes to meet those needs was ASN President Anupam Agarwal, MD, FASN’s focus during a meeting Wednesday afternoon with President Donald Trump. The meeting also included Vice President Mike Pence, US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex M. Azar, JD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield, MD, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma, and Coronavirus Response Coordinator Ambassador Deborah Birx, MD, as well as representatives from 15 other medical professional societies.
On February 27, Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation to extend Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplant patients. A top priority for ASN, the common-sense legislation would extend Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive medications for kidney transplant patients beyond the current 36-month limitation, ensuring that kidney transplant patients do not face losing their transplant due to an inability to afford their medications. “Our bill ensures that kidney transplant patients can afford the medication they need to survive and won’t have to skip or ration doses,” said Durbin. “Extending this coverage under Medicare is bipartisan and commonsense, and I urge my Senate colleagues to support this legislation.”