Dialysis Patients Are Counting on Congress to Pass the Bipartisan BETTER Kidney Care

By Brendan Flanagan

As the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated headlines and airwaves over the past year and a half, immunosuppressed Americans have received special attention in our conversations about public health and healthcare policy. Now, even as vaccination rates climb, we need to continue to find ways to care for some of the most vulnerable Americans, including those right here in Arizona.

One group of immunosuppressed patients that hasn’t received enough attention, though, is patients with kidney disease. In Arizona alone, there are over 14,000 kidney disease patients receiving dialysis treatments. That’s over 14,000 friends and neighbors who desperately need our help. At a moment when our world is increasingly aware of public health issues, it’s especially important that we continue to identify ways we can help kidney patients and improve the way End-Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) is treated in the U.S. 

Right now, there’s a bipartisan bill introduced by Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) called the BETTER Kidney Care Act which could help. This bill could streamline how we treat kidney patients while also offering some other vital services that make their life-saving treatments more accessible. For some patients, it can also help better prepare them to eventually receive a kidney transplant. 

One of the bill’s main goals is to make coordinated care services – which are severely needed – more broadly available for ESRD patients. It’s common for ESRD patients to also have diabetes, heart disease, or other conditions in addition to their kidney disease, meaning they need to see a range of different doctors and care providers who prescribe different treatments and medications that may interfere with one another. Without an easy way for doctors to stay in touch with each other, it falls on the patient to make sure each doctor knows what the others are doing. 

With the coordinated care provisions of the BETTER Kidney Care Act, it will be easier for those doctors to get on the same page, which will help to improve overall care and ensure that all of a patient’s needs are being fully addressed. In the end, they’ll have fewer appointments to attend and spend less on medical bills. 

This bill does more than simply make it easier for patients’ doctors to communicate treatments and prescriptions, though. It also offers transportation to and from a dialysis patient’s local clinic. Since it’s difficult for many patients to get to and from their clinic without someone being there to assist them, these services make it easier for patients to keep up with their appointments and stay healthy, which is a major benefit considering most dialysis patients need to go into their clinic three or four times each week for exhausting treatments that can take several hours. 

Beyond transportation, it also notably provides dental care, something a lot of ESRD patients don’t otherwise have access to. It’s hugely important, however, for patients who are trying to get a kidney transplant. Offering dental care means that patients can be sure they’re remaining on track to receive a kidney transplant, which is already a difficult enough process. 

The BETTER Kidney Care Act is a crucial step toward improving the way we treat kidney patients in the U.S., and it’s encouraging to see lawmakers like Senator Sinema leading the way on this issue. Kidney patients in Arizona are counting on them and this life-saving bill. 

Dialysis patients need more attention in our discussions about healthcare policy, and the BETTER Kidney Care Act is where lawmakers should start. It’s promising for Arizonans that Senator Sinema helped bring this bill forward, but it’s not enough. Dialysis patients across America need our help, and it starts with Congress passing this crucial legislation.