SB 1156 Threatens Life-Saving Care for Dialysis Patients
August 21, 2018
San Bernardino Sun
As water truck driver for the laborers union in Yucca Valley, I never expected to get involved in politics. But then, I never expected to need a kidney transplant, or to have that operation threatened by a dangerous new bill that is being debated in Sacramento.
SB 1156 by Sen. Connie Leyva, who represents parts of San Bernardino County, would threaten life-saving care for patients like me who are suffering from kidney disease. The bill puts insurance company profits over what’s best for patients, and would be devastating for those of us who need daily care and treatment to keep us alive.
Earlier this year, I spent two days in Sacramento talking to lawmakers about how this bill would hurt patients like me, and continue to use my voice to speak out against this bad legislation.
Everything changed for me seven years ago. In 2011, I went to see my doctor to try to control my high blood pressure. After numerous visits, I was referred to a cardiologist, who sent me to get a CT scan. The test revealed a spot on my left kidney that turned out to be cancer. Within weeks, I had my kidney removed.
Five years later, my right kidney started to fail. For the last two years, I have gone through daily peritoneal dialysis treatments as I wait for a kidney transplant operation.
By April 2016, with daily dialysis treatments for my only, and failing, kidney I was forced to leave my job at the local laborers union. In the process, I almost lost my healthcare coverage, until the American Kidney Fund stepped in and agreed to pay my monthly Cobra payments. With AKF’s help, I was able to keep my insurance through the Laborers Trust Fund Union.
Keeping my insurance has meant keeping my place on the active kidney transplant list with UCSD and Scripps, which would not be possible if I did not have active medical insurance. Just recently, a willing donor was found, and I am now in the final stages of waiting before this life-saving operation.
The assistance from AKF allowed me to stay with my existing health plan, and continue to receive the best quality health care. The payment also helps me provide care for my six-year-old daughter, and makes it more likely that I will be around to watch her grow up.
But my insurance coverage, and ability to receive a transplant, could be at risk if state lawmakers pass SB 1156. The bill by Sen. Leyva would allow health insurance companies to deny life-saving kidney treatment to people like me who are dependent on outside help to pay for basic health care coverage.
Without the help from AKF, I would be forced to forfeit my private insurance, and move onto Medicare and Medi-Cal for my health coverage. That would mean changing my entire medical team, and putting me in a public system that doesn’t offer the same quality of coverage as I currently receive. Kidney patients who depend on public insurance have a much harder time seeing doctors, and are far less likely to qualify for life-saving transplants, like the one I need to stay alive.
If SB1156 passes, thousands of dialysis patients would be would not be able to afford their commercial coverage any longer. Unfortunately, that also means their lives could be placed at greater risk.
SB 1156 could literally be a death sentence for thousands of patients who suffer from kidney disease. Lawmakers should reject put patients needs over the profits of the health insurance companies, and vote no on this bill.
Jeffrey Ross is a dialysis patient from Yucca Valley.