by Mano DeAyala
Approximately 60,000 Texans are dependent on life-sustaining dialysis, an expensive procedure patients living with advanced forms of kidney disease must undergo several times a week, often at clinics many miles away. This critical treatment is not only an extremely time-consuming commitment that disrupts patients’ daily lives, the insurance plans that cover dialysis treatments are often prohibitively expensive.
Fortunately, private organizations and charities are helping patients pay costly insurance premiums, giving those desperately in need of care the ability to choose the healthcare plans that work best for them and their families. Charitable organizations such as the American Kidney Fund (AKF) help ease the financial burden of dialysis treatment by providing patients with financial aid in the form of premium assistance funds –– a free-market solution unrestrained by government interference. In 2015 alone, AKF’s Health Insurance Premium Program provided nearly 80,000 patients treatment-related financial aid. Approximately one-third of those patients used this critical assistance to maintain their employer-provided health plans, COBRA and private plans.
Lately, however, major insurance companies have been pressuring regulators at the federal level to allow them to reject patients using charitable assistance to pay their premiums. If insurance companies were allowed to stop accepting premiums paid using charitable assistance, it would leave dialysis patients with only one coverage option: the American Taxpayer. Suddenly, thousands of patients battling kidney disease –– which afflicts the Hispanic population at a rate of 1.5 times that of the general population –– would have to abandon their preferred method of coverage and forced into a Medicare program that covers only 80% of dialysis expenses, a financially devastating transition.
Banning private donors from providing sick citizens with financial assistance is not only unconscionable, it is un-American and certainly un-Republican. A stressful, life-changing health diagnosis should not carry with it the added burden of losing the freedom to make individual health care decisions.
In addition, by forcing hundreds of thousands of low-income dialysis patients into Medicare, taxpayers would be forced to shoulder an even greater burden to support a failing healthcare system –– an unacceptable proposition considering there is an effective free market solution currently in place. Medicare is already on pace to become insolvent by 2028, and such a move would only speed its demise.
Leaders in Congress and at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services should take immediate steps to resolve this issue by denying insurance companies’ request to reject policy holders using charitable assistance and standing up for private sector solutions over increased taxpayer obligations.
Chairman, Hispanic Leadership Alliance