SACRAMENTO, Calif. (Sept. 12, 2019) — American Kidney Fund (AKF) President and CEO LaVarne Burton issued the following statement today as Governor Gavin Newsom considers whether to sign AB 290 (Wood), which narrowly passed the Senate and Assembly:
"For nearly half a century, the American Kidney Fund has been there for patients nationwide whose lives and livelihoods have been devastated by kidney failure. For more than two decades, under a federally approved program, we have helped keep patients insured — assuring their access to lifesaving health care, including transplants, with the majority of our grants going to Medicare patients. About 75,000 struggling patients nationwide depend on our assistance, with about 3,700 residing in California.
"AB 290 will take this lifesaving assistance away from some of California's most vulnerable residents now and in the future. The bill's proponents claim they have protected dialysis and transplant patients with their hastily amended version of the bill. They have done no such thing, and in fact have made the bill even worse for patients. It is a poorly drafted bill that AKF cannot implement from a legal perspective.
"After careful consideration, we are informing all of our grant recipients in California and the social workers at the clinics, hospitals and nursing homes where they are treated that if Governor Newsom signs AB 290, it will force us to stop providing charitable premium assistance in California on the day it becomes law, January 1, 2020. If this happens, we will be communicating with our grant recipients throughout the shutdown process to answer their many questions and respond to their concerns.
"Leaving California is the last thing we want to do. We simply cannot operate our program in compliance with a state law that forces us to violate the federal rules under which we operate.
"A year ago, Governor Brown vetoed a similar bill and asked stakeholders to develop a solution that would protect patients while addressing the cost of care issue. The legislature has failed to do that and now they have demanded that AKF alone take on this charge. We cannot comply with this law in California without also threatening harm to the 75,000 patients we assist across the country.
"The lifesaving assistance we provide to so many Californians has been under threat by special interests in the insurance industry who for years have tried to keep these patients off their rolls. They rushed AB 290 through the final stages of the legislative process without our consultation, and their amendments impose requirements to operate our program in ways that we cannot.
"We have requested a meeting with Governor Newsom's office and we will tell him exactly what we have been saying from the beginning: AB 290 harms some of California's most vulnerable residents and we have urged him to veto this bill."
Statement from American Kidney Fund grant recipient Robert Hines, Los Angeles:
"Without the help of the American Kidney Fund, I don't know if I am going to be able to afford my insurance. This is a matter of life and death for me, and I don't think that the legislature appreciates the implications that this bill has on the future of my health and wellbeing. People don't understand the nature of the hardships dialysis patients face daily, and I hope that Governor Newsom sees the impact this will have on not only me – but many others facing the same reality."
About the American Kidney Fund
The American Kidney Fund (AKF) fights kidney disease on all fronts as the nation’s leading kidney nonprofit. AKF works on behalf of the 37 million Americans living with kidney disease, and the millions more at risk, with an unmatched scope of programs that support people wherever they are in their fight against kidney disease—from prevention through transplant. With programs that address early detection, disease management, financial assistance, clinical research, innovation and advocacy, no kidney organization impacts more lives than AKF. One of the nation’s top-rated nonprofits, AKF invests 97 cents of every donated dollar in programs, earning the highest 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator for 20 years in a row as well as the Platinum Seal of Transparency from Candid, formerly GuideStar.