Congressmen John Lewis (D-GA) and Tom Marino (R-PA) have introduced the Chronic Kidney Disease Improvement in Research and Treatment Act in the U.S. House of Representatives. Lewis and Marino are leaders on the Congressional Kidney Caucus and have been staunch supporters of dialysis patients over the years. This bill seeks to advance several proactive kidney care policy initiatives and provides a vehicle for educating Members of Congress and the public about the issues facing kidney disease patients and the kidney community as a whole.

The bill would:

  1. Improve understanding of kidney disease: The legislation seeks to identify the gaps in critical research and improve the coordination of federal research efforts. The bill would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to submit a report on ways to improve care management, including progression of kidney disease and treatment of kidney failure in minority populations who are disproportionally impacted by kidney disease. The bill directs the HHS Secretary to evaluate and report on the biological, social and behavioral factors that affect care.
  2. Improve beneficiary access to treatments for kidney disease: The bill would improve access to pre-dialysis kidney disease education programs to better manage patients’ disease condition and even prevent kidney failure. Nephrologists and other health professionals would also be incentivized to work in underserved rural and urban areas. In addition, current payment policies would be modified to encourage home dialysis, which is not the case under the current Medicare payment structure. Patients with acute kidney failure would also be allowed to receive treatments through dialysis providers thereby improving convenience and reducing costs associated with care provided in the more expensive hospital outpatient setting.
  3. Expand patient choice and improve the coordination of care: The legislation would expand the options for patients by allowing individuals diagnosed with kidney failure to enroll in the Medicare Advantage program. It would also reauthorize on a permanent basis the Special Needs plan for patients with kidney failure, as well as extend the length of time beneficiaries may choose to maintain their existing insurance coverage.

Kidney care advocates expect a companion bill to be introduced in the U.S. Senate soon.