American Kidney Fund Statement on California Senate Bill 1156


The American Kidney Fund (AKF) is disappointed by the introduction of SB 1156, sponsored by Senator Connie Leyva (District 20).

If passed this bill would cause profound harm to many of the nearly 67,000 Californians who rely on dialysis to stay alive. AKF provides a safety net to dialysis and transplant patients who are unable to afford their health care coverage.  More than 17,000 people who are on dialysis live in the counties in Sen. Leyva’s district, and about 200 of them are receiving assistance from AKF to pay their health insurance premiums. This bill seeks to limit those patients’ access to lifesaving financial assistance and is nothing more than a thinly-veiled attempt by large health insurance companies to kick kidney patients off their insurance plans.

AKF provides financial assistance for all types of health insurance plans, including Medicare, Medigap and Medicare Advantage. In California last year, we helped more than 3,800 dialysis patients pay their health insurance premiums; just under half of plans were Medicare, Medigap or Medicare Advantage and 35% were employer-provided plans. The remaining plans were private commercial plans.

Though most end-stage renal disease (ESRD) patients qualify for Medicare regardless of their age, California is one of only two states that specifically excludes ESRD patients who are under 65 from supplemental Medigap coverage. Because Medicare covers only 80% of all of medical appointments and treatments, including dialysis (with no out of pocket maximum), patients without a Medigap plan are financially liable for 20% of the cost. For someone with an expensive, chronic health condition like ESRD, that could mean financial ruin.  That’s why the American Kidney Fund steps in to make charitable grants to help patients meet their expenses.

The majority of California’s dialysis patients are under 65 and disproportionately low-income and minorities. We strongly urge state lawmakers to vote against this bill.

March 23, 2018