Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to provide uninsured Americans who are suffering from kidney failure full Medicare coverage and access to disease-related management, education and counseling services before the conditions are permanent. Currently, such individuals qualify for Medicare coverage only when they have permanent failure, requiring dialysis or kidney transplant. Medicare will spend $16 billion on its End Stage Renal Disease Program this year, and Stark said his bill if adopted will save money by slowing the growth of patients who need costly dialysis or transplants.
Sens. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) and Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) have introduced legislation to boost cancer research, create new educational programs and create greater research flexibility. The National Cancer Act of 2003 reauthorizes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's breast and cervical cancer screening programs and establishes a new grant program for the National Cancer Institute to address new issues such as pain management, survivorship and access to care. About 1.3 million Americans will be diagnosed with cancer this year and another 500,000 will die, according to Gregg. -- by Tony Fong