Yet another obstacle from an Idaho insurer for patients with kidney disease

2.29.16

The situation for kidney patients covered by Blue Cross of Idaho is getting increasingly worse.

The insurance woes began with changes in network design on Feb. 1, when Blue Cross began excluding all Idaho dialysis clinics from its network of providers. That means anyone in Idaho needing kidney dialysis could have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars more each year for these life-saving treatments – or be forced to switch to Medicare, where they won’t get the same level of coverage and overall benefits.

“It took the hope out of my future,” Debbie Birch, of Caldwell, Idaho, said of the change. A patient with end-stage renal disease, Birch needs regular dialysis treatments to survive. Those treatments can be expensive, even with insurance coverage.

In these situations, many patients have turned to groups like the American Kidney Fund, which has operated a premium assistance program since 1997. But insurance companies are now taking aim at these independent and charitable organizations as well.

As we then learned from another Idaho resident, whose name we are withholding for his protection, some insurers have recently refused to allow patients this lifeline by rejecting premium payments from third parties such as AKF.

Some patients have found a temporary fix through special grants.

However, Blue Cross of Idaho is now poised to deprive patients of this option too.

In a recent policy change the insurer suggested it would no longer accept “indirect payments” from third-party sources either. This means dialysis patients receiving any financial support from a third-party nonprofit such as AKF could be refused by Blue Cross of Idaho.

In a Feb. 19 letter to the American Kidney Fund, Blue Cross outlined this policy, stating that it “does not accept direct or indirect payments for health insurance coverage” by third parties.

Through a systemic batch of policies, the company is trying to squeeze kidney patients of their roles in any way that it can. As kidney patients attempt to come up with ways around discriminatory policies so they can maintain their coverage, every means they find is eventually cut off by the major insurer.

The Chronic Disease Coalition is opposed to such attempts to deprive patients of the coverage they need and have paid for. It’s not just kidney patients and just residents of Idaho. Patient discrimination is affecting those with hemophilia and other chronic conditions all over the country. Insurers continue to find new tactics to discriminate against chronic disease patients and force them on to other plans.

Please join us at https://chronicdiseasecoalition.com/join/ to get updates on this situation and others.