Poll Shows Consumers Believe Health Insurance Companies Seek to Increase Profits at the Expense of Nation’s Most Chronically Ill


88% of Voters Will Not Support Legislators Who Side with Insurers Over Sickest Patients

ROCKVILLE, Md. (June 22, 2018)—A new national poll released today by the American Kidney Fund (AKF) found that 91 percent of Americans believe insurance companies should not be allowed to deny coverage for people with chronic diseases whose premiums are paid by charitable organizations. The poll of 1,110 adults, which includes a representative sample of California residents, was conducted by YouGov for AKF, in response to legislation proposed in California. The legislation, SB 1156, was introduced by the insurance lobby through Sen. Connie Leyva to prevent dialysis patients with end-stage renal disease (ERSD) from using charitable assistance to pay for their insurance premiums.

“Consumers nationally, and in California, overwhelmingly reject the efforts by the billion-dollar health insurers, their lobbyists and their legislative patrons to deny charitable assistance that pays patients’ health insurance premiums,” said LaVarne A. Burton, president and CEO of the American Kidney Fund. “If SB 1156 in its current form is enacted, each patient will face significant obstacles in getting approval to use charitable assistance in paying their insurance premiums. This means patients will face missed or delayed lifesaving treatments, crushing medical costs and uncertainty about future care.”

Known as “charitable premium assistance,” the federally approved practice of patients applying for and receiving help from charities to pay insurance premiums has long been accepted. Yet recent efforts by insurers to undermine the practice have left many of the nation’s sickest patients worried about their insurance coverage. In California more than 3,800 dialysis and kidney transplant patients—who overwhelmingly are unable to work because of their illness—rely on help from AKF to afford the cost of their health insurance premiums.

The research found that 76 percent of respondents believe insurers want to block charitable premium assistance in order “to increase the company’s profits by not providing coverage for people who are very sick.” Among Californians, 75 percent believe insurers are more interested in protecting their profits than patients. By a margin of three to one, Californians overwhelmingly reject the notion that insurers are engaging in this practice to keep the cost of insurance low for everyone.

“Consumers are smart enough to see through the insurers’ false statements and to recognize insurer efforts to end or limit charitable premium assistance are clear evidence of insurers doing what they do best: trying to find every possible way not to pay for sick people’s care,” said Burton. “The question is whether they’ve been able to find enough legislators who will take the insurers’ side instead of protecting sick patients.”

The poll showed that individuals are not inclined to vote for legislators who side with insurers. A vast majority of respondents (88 percent nationally and 83 percent in California) are less willing to vote for a politician who supports the industry’s efforts.

The American Kidney Fund’s research was undertaken June 19-20, 2018, because of the imminent threat presented to California’s ERSD patients. Among the survey’s findings:

  • 91 percent of respondents felt private insurance companies should not be allowed to kick patients with chronic diseases off their health insurance if the patients' premiums are paid by an organization such as a nonprofit charity; in California, 89 percent reject the practice
  • 87 percent of consumers support the government’s current position of allowing private charities to help patients pay their insurance premiums, co-pays, and out-of-pocket costs when the patient suffers from a debilitating illness, like kidney failure; 86 percent of Californians support the current federal position
  • 71 percent of respondents think patients with a chronic disease should be able to choose their health insurance plan. This number dramatically exceeds those who think state and federal governments (17 percent), or health insurance companies (13 percent), should choose which health insurance a patient with a chronic disease can have.

“The harm caused by this bill is so great that we are seeing a growing chorus of voices from patient advocates, doctors, families, social workers, consumer advocates and taxpayer advocates who are coming together to voice opposition to the insurers’ strong-arm tactics,” concluded AKF’s Burton. “I believe people inherently understand that if insurers are successful in their campaign against people with kidney disease, people with other chronic diseases will be easy next targets. We’ll continue working together to protect patients and focus our attention on the elected officials who are inclined to side with billion-dollar insurers over chronically ill patients.”

About the American Kidney Fund

As the nation’s leading independent nonprofit working on behalf of the 30 million Americans with kidney disease, the American Kidney Fund is dedicated to ensuring that every kidney patient has access to health care, and that every person at risk for kidney disease is empowered to prevent it. AKF provides a complete spectrum of programs and services: prevention outreach, top-rated health educational resources, and direct financial assistance enabling 1 in 5 U.S. dialysis patients to access lifesaving medical care, including dialysis and transplantation. AKF holds the highest ratings from the nation’s charity watchdog groups, including Charity Navigator, which includes AKF on its “top 10” list of nonprofits with the longest track records of outstanding stewardship of the donated dollar, and GuideStar, which has awarded AKF its Platinum Seal of Transparency.