CA Senate Bill 1156 discriminates
against disabled kidney patients

In shocking violation of federal and California anti-discrimination laws, SB 1156 allows health insurers to target disabled, low-income kidney failure patients for disenrollment. Big health insurance companies are behind this legislation because it gives them a way to stop covering people with kidney failure who need help from nonprofits to pay for their health insurance. For people who are disabled by kidney failure, SB 1156 means discrimination, disruption in care and higher health care costs. For insurance companies, it means more profits.

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SB 1156 targets kidney patients by letting insurers single them out

Why would California state senators even consider creating a discriminatory health care environment for kidney patients?

End-stage renal disease (ESRD) is a disability under federal law. SB 1156 would allow insurers to treat ESRD patients differently, based merely on their disability and whether they receive charitable assistance. The bill would make it legal for insurers to target these patients for disenrollment. When insurers refuse charitable premium assistance on behalf of their enrollees, and the enrollees can no longer afford the coverage, the patients are dropped from their plan.

AKF’s need-based, federally approved, 21-year-old program pays for all types of insurance—Medicare Part B, Medigap, Medicare Advantage, Medicaid, COBRA, employer group health, and private plans. We help people for the long term, providing assistance for the entire policy year. Nearly 4,000 California dialysis and transplant patients depend on this help from the American Kidney Fund—and health insurance companies cannot be allowed to take that away.

Make no mistake, this bill means that thousands of Californians with ESRD will lose their health insurance. The sponsors of this bill say ESRD patients should be on Medicare or Medi-Cal if they qualify. Most ESRD patients qualify for Medicare regardless of their age, and the majority of people AKF helps are on Medicare – which means we pay for their Medicare Part B premium and their Medicare supplemental coverage/Medigap (if they are over age 65; ESRD patients under 65 in California don’t have access to Medigap). Medicare supplemental coverage, including Medigap, is essential for ESRD patients as it pays for their out-of-pocket costs, which can be $7,000 or more annually. But what the bill sponsors are not telling you is that this bill would allow insurers to deny our charitable premium payments for Medigap, leaving low-income, elderly ESRD patients with no way to pay their out of pocket costs. Some may be eligible for Medi-Cal, but not all.

And because California is one of only two states that excludes ESRD patients under 65 from access to supplemental Medigap coverage, a private plan with an out-of-pocket maximum may be the right choice for an under-65. More than half of California dialysis patients are under 65, and disproportionately low-income and minorities.

This bill would harm some of the most at-risk people in California. There is no question – if people cannot afford their health care costs, some of them will die. This has nothing to do with providers, this is about patients who need access several times each week to life-saving treatment.

Ask your CA State Senator to protect low-income ESRD patients

AKF grants help California ESRD patients who cannot afford their health insurance. SB 1156 would allow insurers to target low-income kidney patients for disenrollment.

Learn more about charitable premium assistance for kidney patients

It’s a complex issue that pits insurers against patients. As the nation’s leading nonprofit working on behalf of kidney patients, we are on the side of patients. There is a lot of misinformation coming from insurers, and we want to set the record straight.

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What California patients are saying:

“We have been receiving assistance from American Kidney Fund, AKF, since 2013. AKF has truly been a godsend for us and our family. Please help all of us that rely on the charity of others.”Paul, Montclair


“Without [AKF’s] help, many of us would have fewer days left, and more of us would end up in the dark and lonely life on the streets.” Mardel, Sacramento


“I have been on dialysis for 10 years and without the support of the American Kidney Fund, I probably would have died! We need their help and so do other people on dialysis.” Noel, Rancho Cordova


“I have been on dialysis since March 2016, and I am grateful for the financial help from AKF. It’s been a struggle for myself and family members. Thank you very much.” Manuel, Fontana


“Kidney disease has totally devastated my life. Only have Social Security to live on. Without [AKF’s HIPP program] I would not be able to make it.” Mona, Sacramento