Americans have been publishing letters in local newspapers in recent weeks calling on the federal government – and state governments – to protect patients’ ability to obtain critical health care. The issue at hand is charitable premium assistance, also called third party payments. Insurance companies are rejecting patients’ coverage if they sometimes rely on financial aid from nonprofit organizations to pay their bills.
This is wrong – patients should be able to get the health care they have paid for, regardless of the disease they have or whether they need charitable help to get by.
Following are three patients’ perspectives about the need for charitable assistance for those living with kidney disease.
“Charitable assistance provides an important lifeline for patients when we need it.”
Richard Nelson was 20 years old when he found out he was born with one kidney rather than two. He managed the disease for about 13 years before having to go on dialysis treatment to filter toxins from his blood. He had additional costs for treatment after a kidney transplant failed.
“No longer able to work, I watched my family’s savings shrink because of my health care costs,” he wrote in the Chicago Sun Times, noting he found temporary support in the form of charitable assistance from the longstanding nonprofit organization American Kidney Fund.
“Health insurance companies have recently been lobbying the government so they can block kidney patients from being able to use charitable assistance,” he said. “Charitable assistance provides an important lifeline for patients when we need it.”
“Government leaders must recognize these harmful efforts for what they are — discrimination — and help patients fight back.”
Linda Myers, of North Carolina, was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease in 2011.
“My life changed overnight,” she wrote in the Greensboro News & Record. “No longer able to work while undergoing dialysis treatment three days each week, I was having a hard time paying my bills. … Thanks to the help of nonprofits and charitable assistance, I was able to get the medical treatment I needed.”
“Unfortunately, big insurance companies have targeted kidney patients, steering them off of their individual health plans if they rely on charitable premium assistance to get by, she said: “If insurance companies have their way, they will prohibit low-income kidney patients from using premium assistance, taking away their choice of health plans.”
“Government leaders must recognize these harmful efforts for what they are — discrimination — and help patients fight back,” Myers wrote. “Our country must come together to defend patients’ right to choose the best health plan for their individual needs, regardless of whether they received financial aid to pay some of their bills.
“Insurance companies and the government shouldn’t be able to dictate what plans a patient can choose, let alone how they pay for their insurance premiums.”
Ted Hartley of Oklahoma City was diagnosed with kidney disease in 1987 and has been on dialysis treatments since 2013.
“Charitable premium assistance ensured I could access the care I needed to stay alive and healthy,” he wrote in The Oklahoman newspaper. “Insurance companies and the government shouldn’t be able to dictate what plans a patient can choose, let alone how they pay for their insurance premiums.”
“That’s a fundamental patient right, and health insurers should know better. Instead of helping insurance companies make more money, our government should help its citizens get the care and treatment we rightly deserve.”