Statement on AHIP letter to HHS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

LaVarne A. Burton
American Kidney Fund President and CEO

For years, if not decades, some very profitable business groups and health insurance providers have tried and pursued a discrimination strategy against ESRD patients. It’s appalling.

The real steering playbook is outlined in today’s letter spearheaded by insurers, employers and labor unions: let’s get these people off employer-provided insurance and let’s push them onto the government rolls whether that works for them or not.

Unfortunately, many times, only when people have a personal experience (family or friend) with ESRD do they realize the difficult health care decisions patients have to make. To the powerful groups that spearheaded this letter, ESRD patients are a cost that they want shifted elsewhere. To us, they are men, women, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers who deserve the dignity to have the health care that best suits their personal and family situation, even if they need charitable help to pay for it.

Our goal is to make health coverage possible for those who can least afford it when they get kidney disease. With very few exceptions, these are patients with little to no meaningful assets. Certainly not enough to afford health care without tremendous out-of-pocket costs. We help patients with any type of insurance plan they’ve chosen, public or private. It’s ironic that the same insurers who say all ESRD patients belong on Medicare are, at the same time, denying charitable premium assistance that allows Medicare patients to afford the Medigap plans that protect them from personal financial ruin.

These groups don’t understand what these patients experience. They just look at cost and say it should be someone else’s problem to bear. 

Health care coverage cannot just be for healthy people. This letter should send a chill down the spine of every person with a chronic disease. Which disease will be rejected by insurers and employers for health coverage next--cancer, diabetes, obesity or asthma?  Because they won’t just stop with kidney failure. 

This outright discrimination against ESRD patients, who are disproportionately members of minority groups, has to stop. It’s a life and death situation, and like previous Administrations, Congresses and courts, we believe Secretary Azar will reject this cynical effort to deny health coverage to people who need it most.

The American Kidney Fund submitted a letter to Health & Human Services Secretary Azar today correcting false assertions in the letter from the insurance industry. The full text of the letter is available here.