The American Kidney Fund is extending its Health Insurance Premium Program coverage for patients on dialysis to a full insurance plan year if they receive a kidney transplant. The extension, which takes effect April 1, changes the AKF’s long-standing policy of limiting assistance for premiums post-transplant.

“We have always continued [Health Insurance Premium Program] HIPP assistance for up to 1 calendar quarter post-transplant, which has allowed patients to go through the transplant workup process and have the transplant surgery,” the CEO and president of AKF LaVarne A. Burton, wrote in a blog entry on the AKF’s site. “Extending the length of time for which we pay insurance premiums to the full plan year will give patients some additional support as they make the transition to life post-transplant.”

The change in transplant coverage is part of several enhancements by the AKF for the HIPP program.

  • Funding is being expanded for patients who are younger than 65 years and must pay higher premiums for Medigap policies. “In states where Medigap is available to kidney failure patients under 65, these patients are sometimes subject to higher premiums than Medicare enrollees over 65,” according to an AKF press release.
  • A handbook of frequently asked questions about HIPP is now available in English and Spanish. A document has also been developed that explains the rights and responsibilities of patients who receive HIPP assistance from the AKF.
  • A voluntary “code of conduct” for all dialysis clinics that refer patients to AKF for assistance has also been issued. “This code of conduct allows providers to affirm that they are operating in a fully compliant manner when referring patients to AKF for charitable premium assistance,” according to the AKF.

“The enhancements to this vital program will ensure that the program continues to provide assistance to patients who need it most, and we believe these enhancements can serve as a model as the federal government considers what kinds of safeguards and parameters should exist for patient assistance programs,” Burton said in the release.