Dialysis assistance helps pay for medications, other necessities and peace of mind

May 31, 2019

Ventura County Star

Sydney White

You cannot put a price tag on peace of mind.

I’m on dialysis every day at home, many hours at a time, just to stay alive because my kidneys have failed.

Even with that difficult schedule, at least I have some financial security thanks to the American Kidney Fund’s (AKF) charitable premium assistance program. This is a non-profit program to help dialysis patients like me pay for health insurance and dialysis.

But AB 290 (Wood), a bill sponsored by insurance companies, would remove that peace of mind and make it much more difficult for patients like me to pay for insurance, medications and other necessities.

The bill narrowly passed the State Assembly will now come up for a vote in the Senate Health Committee in June or early July.

I lost my husband 20 years ago and, even as a senior citizen, I continue to work full time to pay for my needs on one income. Even with the assistance from AKF, there are times I cannot pay for the medications I need and afford the strict diet that comes along with my dialysis.

The AKF has been helping patients whose finances have been devastated by kidney failure for nearly 50 years and it is one of the top-rated charities in the country. Its charitable premium assistance gives me reassurance that I will be able to pay the bills, and I value that because living with kidney failure is extremely stressful.

If AB 290 is approved, I would live under a new financial cloud on top of my health concerns. Nobody deserves to be treated in such a way.

The bill would place strict parameters on the American Kidney Fund that would jeopardize its operations nationally. Rather than risk that, the AKF has said it would instead be forced to simply cease offering financial assistance in California altogether.

Patients affected by AB 290 are low-income dialysis patients who need assistance to help pay their insurance premiums. So the bill would leave nearly 4,000 low-income Californians suddenly fending for themselves. Many of us simply would not be able to get by without the assistance from AKF.

Many patients receiving assistance from AKF would be forced off the insurance we have and onto Medicare or MediCal, coverage we didn’t choose because it’s not right for us.

Government programs like Medicare and MediCal also provide lower reimbursements to dialysis providers, reimbursements that don’t even cover the cost of care. This could jeopardize the long term viability of dialysis clinics in California.

If this happens, clinics may even be forced to cut back services or even close.

Make no mistake, AB 290 also will raise health care costs for all Californians. If dialysis clinics shut their doors, some patients will end up going to hospital emergency rooms for their life-sustaining dialysis at a much higher cost, resulting in higher healthcare costs for all Californians.

We already live in a very expensive state, and seniors and low-income individuals already struggle each day to make ends meet. Those of us on dialysis have an additional burden to bear to ensure we receive the dialysis that literally replaces our kidneys in keeping us alive.

I simply ask Senators to act in a humanitarian way and reject AB 290.

Sydney White is a dialysis patient living in Oxnard.

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