ROCKVILLE, Md. (July 24, 2019) — This statement may be attributed to LaVarne A. Burton, president and chief executive officer of the American Kidney Fund (AKF).
"We would welcome the opportunity to introduce the Congresswoman and her staff to the American Kidney Fund. Among the many ways we fight kidney disease, we have provided an essential safety net for low-income end-stage renal disease patients for nearly 50 years, and under guidance from the Inspector General at the Department of Health and Human Services, we have helped them afford their health insurance coverage for over 20 years. We hold the highest ratings from the nation's charity watchdog organizations and are proud to be completely independent from our donors. Patients are our top priority no matter where they are in the fight against kidney disease — from prevention all the way through transplant and post-transplant care. The unquestionable impact of our many programs on the lives of people with or at risk for kidney disease speaks for itself, and efforts to undermine our programs put vulnerable patients at risk.
"We would explain to the Congresswoman that:
- Our grant recipients are in great need of our assistance. The tens of thousands of people we assist are low-income — with average household incomes under $30,000. More than 60% of them identify as members of racial and ethnic minority groups. Our grant population reflects a broader reality: The vast majority of people on dialysis can no longer work because of the devastating impact of this disease, and people of color are affected disproportionately by kidney failure.
- We stand for patient choice. OIG Advisory Opinion 97-1 under which we operate protects patients by ensuring they have choice in their insurance coverage and in their choice of providers, not just for dialysis but for all their complex medical needs. Patients apply to us for assistance with their health insurance coverage already in place. More than two-thirds of our grants are for Medicare Part B, Medigap and Medicare Advantage plans. We adamantly agree with Rep. Porter that patients should never be steered into plans that are not right for them, and that's why our charitable premium assistance program, as required by 97-1, maintains a firewall between the providers who contribute to AKF and the patients who receive our assistance.
- We are proud of our impact — we're making more kidney transplants possible. Our programs and priorities clearly reflect that. We support all our grant recipients for their full policy year, which makes transplants possible for many low-income patients in the first place — last year AKF helped nearly 1,000 patients get transplants. We are proud to have spearheaded the introduction of living donor protection legislation in 14 states this year — and so far, seven states have enacted this AKF-sponsored legislation. Through our advocacy efforts in Congress we actively support H.R. 1224, the Living Donor Protection Act. We would encourage Rep. Porter to sign on as a co-sponsor of this bill.
- We treat all patients and providers the same. We do not in any way favor dialysis providers that donate funds to AKF. We help patients with no regard to whether their dialysis provider has donated to us; in fact, about half the providers with patients receiving our health insurance premium grants do not contribute to our program at all, and the program is frequently in a deficit because we do not have adequate funding to meet patient demand.
- We are proud of our ethical standards. We enforce rigorous standards of compliance and strict conflict of interest policies for our staff and board of trustees. Our internal firewalls ensure that dialysis providers have no say in whether AKF will assist their patients. We alone determine patient eligibility, and that eligibility is based solely on the patient's financial need, regardless of where the patient is treated and what kind of insurance they have.
"We would invite Rep. Porter to engage with us to learn more about our many other programs and services that are helping people with, and at risk for, kidney disease live healthier lives."
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.