General Assembly OKs bill would extend availability of Medicare supplement policies to those eligible below 65
STATE HOUSE — The General Assembly today approved legislation (2022-H 7244aa, 2022-S 2194aa) introduced by House Speaker Pro Tempore Brian Patrick Kennedy (D-Dist. 38, Hopkinton, Westerly) and Senate Minority Leader Dennis L. Algiere (R-Dist. 38, Charlestown, South Kingstown, Westerly) that would require Medicare supplement policies in the state to 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.
“Too many Rhode Islanders have been overwhelmed by the cost of dialysis — a burden they are forced to shoulder during a very difficult time,” said Senator Algiere. “Dialysis patients comprise an extremely vulnerable population, with 85 percent of patients relying on Medicare to fund their treatments. This is a bill that will not only improve the physical health of many Rhode Islanders, but their financial health as well.”
In Rhode Island, about 1,700 patients need either multiple weekly dialysis or a kidney transplant just to stay alive. Kidney disease also disproportionately impacts communities of color, with African-Americans 3.5 times more likely to have kidney failure.
The measure now moves to the governor’s office.