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Bipartisan legislation provides record funding for lifesaving cellular transplants and eliminates a Medicare payment barrier for seniors

December 20 2019

National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match® applauds Congress for passing bipartisan legislation that provides record levels of funding to increase access for patients to cellular transplants, which can be the only curative treatments for blood cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma and other blood diseases. The bill also increases access to these same therapies for senior citizens by fixing a Medicare reimbursement issue that can be a barrier for them to these life-saving procedures.

“Increasing funding levels for these programs and bringing Medicare payment policies for these procedures up to date represents major victories for the 1.3 million Americans fighting blood cancers,” said Brian Lindberg, Chief Policy Officer of NMDP/Be The Match. “By increasing funding for life-saving cellular transplants and removing Medicare barriers that inhibit access to care, Congress has given hope to patients in need of these curative treatments.”

“We are honored to have broad support from members in the House and Senate who stand with us and our mission to find matched donors for every patient in need of these cellular therapies,” Lindberg added. “Increasing patient access to life-saving bone marrow and cord blood transplant is NMDP/Be The Match’s top priority.”

The program works closely with organizations throughout the nation to recruit volunteer donors for the registry and with public and private insurers to ensure that all patients have equal access to treatment.

The $30 million included in the final legislation for the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program, an increase of $5.4 million over last year, and the $17.3 million for the National Cord Blood Inventory, an increase of $1.0 million, will help reduce barriers to transplant by:

  • Advancing new and innovative methods of providing the best possible transplant to every patient in need, regardless of socioeconomic status, age, ethnic ancestry, or any other individually defining characteristic;
  • Continuing to simplify processes and systems to reduce time to transplant, providing the patient and their physician the therapy the patient needs exactly when he/she needs it; and
  • Protecting access to transplant by allowing NMDP to pursue our vision of achieving equal outcomes for all.

In the case of older Americans, inadequate Medicare transplant reimbursement, primarily for donor-related costs, poses a significant barrier to patient access.

Unlike Medicare payment policies for the acquisition of solid organs for transplant, Medicare does not provide separate payments for the cost of acquiring the cells for transplant (which can include the cost of identifying genetically matched donors, collecting the cells, and transporting them to the transplant hospital). As a result, hospitals take substantial financial losses on these life-saving procedures, which often require a 20-to-30-day hospital stay on average, because the reimbursement rate does not come close to covering the true costs of treatment.

NMDP/Be The Match looks forward to working closely with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which operates the Medicare program, to ensure that this critical payment reform is implemented as quickly as possible, so that Medicare beneficiaries are not at risk of being denied the bone marrow, peripheral blood stem cell, or cord blood transplant they need to survive.

About National Marrow Donor Program/Be The Match
For people with life-threatening blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, a cure exists. National Marrow Donor Program(NMDP)/Be The Match connects patients with their donor match for a life-saving marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant and works to identify and eliminate financial and other barriers faced by these patients. NMDP also provides patients and their families one-on-one support, education, and guidance before, during and after transplant.