By Dr. Michael Choi, MD and National Kidney Foundation President
Recently, I had the privilege to represent the National Kidney Foundation in 11 meetings in the U.S. House of Representatives, eight of which were with the Member of Congress and the other three with their health staff member. The purpose was to build support for legislation (H.R. 3867) spearheaded by the National Kidney Foundation to improve the early detection and treatment of chronic kidney disease (CKD). The highlight of the day was a full one-hour discussion with Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), who introduced H.R. 3867 at NKF’s request, about the impact of CKD and the importance of early detection. My meetings also provided an opportunity to talk about the broad impact of various NKF programs.
Every Representative I met is a member of a House health committee and/or a physician. It is encouraging to know so many Members of Congress are physicians or other health professionals! I came away from each meeting impressed by their genuine concern for, and knowledge about, kidney patients.
For too long patients have asked why they were not diagnosed with CKD before learning they had kidney failure (ESRD). CKD affects 30 million people in the U.S. and, astonishingly about 90% with kidney disease don’t know they have it.
H.R. 3867 would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to design a voluntary practitioner-led Medicare pilot program that will tie Medicare payment to improvements in the early detection of CKD and the care patients receive. This bill will promote stronger collaboration between primary care and nephrology practitioners to preserve kidney health and give health care providers the necessary resources to make measurable improvements in the care of people with CKD. The National Kidney Foundation believes this program can help change the pattern of how CKD is identified and treated, improving the outcomes and quality of life of kidney patients.
While my face-to-face meetings in Congress hopefully will result in additional cosponsors to H.R. 3867 (we gained one cosponsor immediately and I believe other Representatives from our meetings will soon join), nothing is as important as Legislators hearing directly from their constituents. The likelihood of swift action on our bill is greatly increased if it has strong bipartisan support. If you have not already done so, please take action, and register your support with your Representative for early CKD legislation.