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First look: Kidney screening recommendation urged

Jun 4, 2024
Illustration of a medical diagram of kidneys against an abstract background.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A bipartisan group of lawmakers is urging HHS and a federal task force to recommend regular screening for people at high risk of chronic kidney disease, in a letter first shared with Axios.

Why it matters: Chronic kidney disease is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S., and Medicare spends more than $136 billion on the condition, which disproportionately affects Black Americans.

  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force is considering a screening recommendation for chronic kidney disease amid arguments the condition is often not managed enough until a patient has progressed to kidney failure, resulting in significantly higher costs.

Zoom in: The letter is led by Reps. Suzan DelBene and Larry Bucshon, and 42 other lawmakers, including members of the Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means committees.

  • Lawmakers want the task force to ensure that the screening is inclusive in that it includes those in vulnerable populations and recognizes diabetes and hypertension as independent risk factors for chronic kidney disease.
  • There's also the argument that with more specific screening criteria, chronic kidney disease could be detected quicker and thus save the federal government money.

What they're saying: "A federal kidney disease screening recommendation would increase early detection and improve quality-of-life and physical functioning for millions of people, while preventing costly consequences including deaths, kidney failure, and cardiovascular complications," the lawmakers wrote to the task force and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.

Flashback: The task force in 2012 decided there was not enough evidence to recommend annual screening. Since then, researchers and patient advocates argue the advent of new drugs has made screening cost-effective and improved outcomes.

  • Most private insurance plans are required to cover preventive services that receive a grade of A or B from the Task Force without a copay.
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