Greg Walden Works to Improve Public Health and Wellness

January 8, 2020
Press Release

Today, Representative Greg Walden (R-Hood River) discussed efforts to improve public health and wellness at an Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing entitled  “Legislation to Improve Americans’ Health Care Coverage and Outcomes.”

One of the bills discussed at the hearing was the Scarlett’s Sunshine on Sudden Unexpected Death Act, H.R. 2271,  which would improve current efforts to further understand both sudden unexplained infant death (SUID) and sudden unexplained death in childhood (SUDC).

“The circumstances surrounding these unfortunate tragedies are oftentimes not fully understood, which makes determining the causes of sudden deaths of infants and children very challenging,” said Walden.  “H.R. 2271 would improve the comprehensiveness and standardization of child and infant death investigations. As someone who has lost a child, I can’t imagine the added heartache of a child’s death being without any explanation. My hope is this legislation will help us find those answers and prevent those deaths in the future.”

Walden also spoke about H.R. 5534, a bill that would fix current nonsensical Medicare rules for patients who receive kidney transplants. 

“Individuals who have received a kidney transplant require immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their life in order to minimize the risk of their immune system rejecting the kidney,” said Walden. “Unfortunately, Medicare currently only provides payment for immunosuppressive drugs for three years while providing coverage for a lifetime of dialysis treatments. So, Medicare will currently pay for dialysis, pay for a transplant, pay for the drugs for three years, and then stop paying so patients are more likely to lose their transplanted kidney and then guess what? Medicare goes back to paying for dialysis, will pay for a new transplant, and then three more years of drug coverage.”

Walden continued on, applauding the legislation, noting, “Extending immunosuppressive drug coverage for the lifetime of kidney patients is a cost-effective way for the federal government to improve clinical outcomes for those with End-Stage Renal Disease. Despite decades of legislative efforts and supporting clinical data, extending coverage for immunosuppressive drugs has not been passed into law."
He also discussed the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act, H.R. 1379, which would ensure that children with congenital anomalies have their medically necessary treatment covered by private health insurance. 

“Last year I met with Dr. Keith Krueger, a surgeon in central Oregon, about this issue and heard the frustrations of his patients -- and their parents -- who had to fight too hard just to get their treatment covered,” said Walden.

He said that fixing the issue was important and that patients should have the peace of mind that their care would be covered. However, Walden urged his colleagues that the Ensuring Lasting Smiles Act could still be improved to avoid any unintended consequences.

Walden has continuously worked to improve health and wellness in Oregon and throughout the nation. He introduced legislation to provide the longest and most generous extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) in history, as well as a plan to provide two years of full funding and certainty for community health centers. Both pieces of legislation have been signed into law, ensuring these programs will be able to continue serving Oregonians.