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6/16/2021 House passes Kennedy bill extending availability of Medicare supplement policies to those eligible below 65
STATE HOUSE — The House of Representatives today passed legislation (2021-H 5210A) introduced by Speaker Pro Tempore Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly) that would require that Medicare supplement policies in the state be offered to all patients who are eligible for Medicare by reason of disability, including end-stage renal disease (ESRD) regardless of age.  Current access to Medigap policies is guaranteed by federal law to those 65 and older, however those under 65 don’t share this protection

“Nearly 50 percent of dialysis patients in Rhode Island are under 65 and without a Medicare Supplement plan many patients are ineligible for a transplant because they are considered “under-insured.” Since a kidney transplant is the best treatment for those with end-stage renal disease, this legislation could be a lifesaver,” said Rep. Kennedy.

Most people with ESRD become eligible for Medicare regardless of age, and most of them choose to enroll in the program as their primary health insurance coverage. However, for many of these patients, private supplement Medigap insurance is needed to afford their deductibles and co-pays, as Medicare Part B covers 80 percent of medical care with no cap on out-of-pocket expenses. ESRD patients have complex health care needs and face high out-of-pocket costs that average more than $10,000 annually for end-stage renal disease.

“This will benefit many of the thousands of people in Rhode Island that are currently dealing with end-stage renal disease and because they are on kidney dialysis are forced to endure the burden of paying for these expensive treatments,” said Representative Kennedy.

Dialysis patients comprise an extremely vulnerable population, with 85 percent of patients relying on Medicare to fund their treatments. In Rhode Island, about 1,700 patients need either multiple weekly dialysis or a kidney transplant just to stay alive. Kidney disease also disproportionately impact communities of color, with African-Americans 3.5 times more likely to have kidney failure.

“This is legislation that will enhance the quality of life,” said Representative Kennedy. “So many dialysis patients are struggling with the financial difficulties of paying for these life-saving dialysis treatments and the high cost of the resulting medical bills. With a fair and equitable plan for under-65 dialysis patients, we will not only be improving the health of many Rhode Islanders, we’ll be improving their financial security as well.”

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

For more information, contact:
Daniel Trafford, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903