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Florida Legislature Renames Proposed Bill to Help State's Kidney Failure Patients "The Alonzo Mourning Access to Care Act"
Date:4/24/2009

If Passed, Legislation Will Provide Access to Medigap Secondary Insurance for Florida's Most Vulnerable Kidney Patients

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., April 24 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Florida Legislature voted today to rename a proposed bill that could help a special population of Florida's kidney failure patients access the care they need "The Alonzo Mourning Access to Care Act," in recognition of the former Miami Heat all-star's dedication to promoting the need for this legislation.

Mourning, who is also a kidney transplant recipient and a leading advocate for those suffering from kidney disease and kidney failure, recently made rounds in Tallahassee on behalf of the kidney community to educate legislators about this bill, which would give Florida end stage renal disease (ESRD) patients under the age of 65 access to Medigap coverage assistance, which would provide them with access to needed medical treatments, including kidney transplant, without cost being a barrier -- and without having to "spend down" their income to become eligible for state Medicaid assistance, in many cases the only option for this population.

Mourning said, "I am just so touched and humbled by this incredible gesture from both Republicans and Democrats in the Florida Legislature, as well as my friends throughout the kidney community. From my own experience with kidney disease, I know how critical it is to have access to life-saving medical treatments, such as dialysis services, transplantation, and prescription medications, and the importance of coverage."

Two populations qualify for Medicare coverage: individuals over age 65, and those under 65 who meet certain conditions, including the diagnosis of ESRD. While Medicare covers most medical costs, it requires patients to pay deductibles and co-pays. Most patients have secondary insurance to help with these costs. However, approximately 2,000 kidney patients in Florida under age 65 have no secondary insurance coverage, and cannot afford their deductibles and co-pays. As a result, they often experience delays and roadblocks for critical medical services because of the required upfront payments, and are forced to turn to the state's Medicaid program for support -- impoverishing themselves and often their families to qualify.

Under federal law, all Medicare beneficiaries over age 65 are already able to purchase this insurance as secondary coverage, and Mourning is advocating for this same option to be extended to kidney patients under age 65. The current bill has been approved by committee and is poised for final passage by the full legislature.

Stephanie Hutchinson, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation of Florida, who accompanied Mourning in advocating for the bill and supports renaming the legislation, said, "Alonzo is a remarkable human being. He had a lot of choices in his recent retirement, and he chose a path to help others -- specifically, those struggling with kidney disease and kidney failure. One day many years from now, many will remember him for his remarkable athletic achievements, but many more will remember him for how he helped millions of Americans afflicted with this dreadful disease. That is his legacy."

Mourning topped the Miami Heat's all-time lists in points scored (9,459), minutes played (17,700), free throws attempted (3,896), offensive rebounds (1,505), defensive rebounds (3,302), total rebounds (4,807), blocked shots (1,625) and double-figure scoring efforts (442). He achieved an NBA championship with the Heat in 2006, was twice named NBA Defensive Player of the Year and won a gold medal on the U.S. Men's Senior National Team at the 2000 Olympics. After receiving his kidney transplant in December 2003, Mourning returned to the NBA for five more seasons, retiring in 2008.


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SOURCE National Kidney Foundation of Florida
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