I am a patient with End-Stage Renal Disease, or kidney failure. Before my kidneys failed in March 2015, I worked full time and was physically fit — I was preparing to run my fourth marathon at the time. After, my life would never be the same. I immediately began dialysis, a treatment that performs functions my kidneys can't. I could no longer work. Along with the emotional and physical toll came the financial toll, as large medical bills followed.
Despite developing frugal habits and saving over the years, the medical bills became overwhelming. Although I was on Medicare, it pays only 80 percent of medical bills. I was able to purchase a supplement plan to help fill the gap, but I was met with open hostility from several insurance companies angry they had to cover someone with an expensive condition like mine.
Eventually I found a lifeline. With help from my social worker, I was able to receive financial assistance from the American Kidney Fund (AKF), a charity dedicated to helping kidney patients pay their insurance costs. Without financial help from AKF, my family would have continued struggling to make ends meet.
Insurance companies in many states are now refusing to allow charitable programs to make payments on behalf of patients — this is absurd! These programs support patients at no cost to the public and can be the difference between life and death as we battle our diseases.
Congress now has a chance to help many patients who rely on charitable assistance. I’d like to thank U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio for co-sponsoring the Access to Marketplace Insurance Act, or H.R. 3976, to protect people’s right to use charitable assistance, and encourage anyone who reads this letter to contact your representative in Congress as well. Stop insurance companies from denying patients’ charitable payments.