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Florida Legislature Unanimously Supports 'The Alonzo Mourning Access to Care Act' to Help State's Kidney Failure Patients and the Disabled

Governor Expected to Sign Legislation to Provide Access to Medigap Secondary Insurance for Florida's Most Vulnerable Patients Next Month

TALLAHASSEE, Fla., April 29 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following unanimous support in the Florida House this week, the Florida Senate today also voted unanimously for the bill renamed "The Alonzo Mourning Access to Care Act" that will help a special population of Florida's kidney failure patients and the disabled access the care they need.

Late last week, the legislature voted to rename the legislation in honor of Alonzo Mourning, who is also a kidney transplant recipient and a leading advocate for those suffering from kidney disease and kidney failure. The legislation will give Florida residents under the age of 65 who suffer from end stage renal disease (ESRD) and those deemed disabled 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, "This bill will ensure that kidney failure patients do not have to choose between life-saving medical care and their daily living expenses. I applaud the Florida legislature for making the right decision that ensures that this vulnerable population can access the care they need such as dialysis services, transplantation and prescription medications."

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 failure patients and many thousands more who are disabled 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 and the disabled under age 65. With the Senate passage of this bill, it is poised for signing into law by Governor Charlie Crist.

Stephanie Hutchinson, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation of Florida, who accompanied Mourning in advocating for the bill last month and has been an ardent supporter of the legislation, said, "Alonzo Mourning has given a voice to a population that was falling through the system's cracks. Thousands of Florida residents will live longer, more productive lives thanks to this legislation and Alonzo Mourning."

Mourning has been a leading national advocate for kidney disease patients and has personally led a campaign to raise $2 million to aid in the research, education and financial relief to patients who cannot afford medication with his foundation "Zo's Fund for Life."

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.

SOURCE National Kidney Foundation of Florida
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