By Kathleen Yeager

Patients who suffer from kidney failure, or end stage renal disease (ESRD), deserve the health care that they signed up for. However, some private insurance companies are resisting charitable donations as payment from dialysis patients, driving them off their current health care plans.

As a social worker in Louisville, I have watched my patients struggle with the dysfunction of their kidneys and the intense treatment that ESRD demands.

Time-consuming and expensive, dialysis treatment requires my patients to spend three full days inside a clinic every week, rather than in their home or in the workplace.

Their disease forces them to exchange time spent with family, friends and loved ones for time spent with doctors, nurses and machines. Despite my patients’ strength and resilience, this debilitating disease requires many to put their entire lives on hold.

As one might expect, treatment for kidney failure is expensive; hemodialysis, which works to remove waste and prevent it from accumulating in the body, costs a patient approximately $89,000 per year — a price many Kentuckians cannot afford.

Luckily, several organizations provide charitable contributions for patients struggling to afford their private insurance plans. These organizations pay portions of patients’ insurance premiums, alleviating the financial burden of dialysis and encouraging them to focus on what really matters: restoring their health.

Unfortunately, private insurance companies are working hard to eradicate this system and outlaw philanthropic contributions as a form of acceptable payment. If they succeed, insurance companies will be allowed to abandon patients who cannot afford their premiums, pushing them off the plans they’ve come to rely on.

Adopting a government insurance plan would require my patients, who are already ill, weak and vulnerable, to undergo an exhaustive, enduring bureaucratic process. Dialysis patients should not have to face more obstacles as they fight against the most severe stage of chronic kidney disease.

My patients depend upon their insurance companies to provide the best, most effective care for them and their families. They should be free to stay on their plans as long as they pay for them, no matter how they pay.

It is an honor to work with such strong, unrelenting patients every day. The current system works and provides my patients with the lifesaving dialysis treatments, so why change it?

Congressman Kevin Cramer of North Dakota has introduced the Access to Marketplace Insurance Act, legislation that would protect dialysis patients’ right to use charitable donations as payment for their insurance premiums. On behalf of those suffering from renal disease, I urge representatives in Washington to support this legislation.

Together, we must fight for those who fight for their lives every day; protecting, caring for, and offering a voice to every dialysis patients across Kentucky.

Insider Louisville is on a mission to give a voice to our readers who want to weigh in on the critical issues of the day. Insider Voices is a regular Sunday feature for those who want to keep the conversation going when it comes to our five cornerstone coverage areas: culture, economy, education, government and health.


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