Legislation sponsored by insurance companies would force me and thousands of others to make impossible choices

By John Heglin

John Heglin

Heglin is a retired architect who lives in Playa Vista.

In the early 1980s, I began suffering health problems that left me facing a storm of fear and uncertainty, but I paid my health insurance premiums to ensure I always had quality healthcare coverage.

In 2013 I was diagnosed with kidney failure requiring dialysis to keep me alive. Thankfully, even with the life-altering need for dialysis, having insurance gives me peace of mind that my care will be covered.

But now I’m on a new rollercoaster of dread. California Assembly Bill 290, which our state Senate Health committee will vote on soon, would take away a charitable, financial grant that I receive every month to help pay for my health insurance and defray the cost of dialysis.

AB 290, sponsored by insurance companies, is merely a profit grab by those very insurance companies, who are seeking to reduce the amounts they reimburse for the care of dialysis patients. And they are doing it without a second thought to the well-being of patients like me.

This legislation would all but end a nonprofit program in California run by the American Kidney Fund that provides financial assistance to help patients with need pay for insurance premiums. AKF helps dialysis patients like me to bridge the average $7,000 to $9,000 costs for dialysis that are not covered by Medicare.

Because requirements in the bill would mandate that AKF violate its federal governing rules, AKF would be forced to cease operating its program in California altogether, affecting me and more than 3,700 vulnerable California dialysis patients who rely on its financial assistance.

The sad part is that most of the patients this bill would directly impact are low-income residents who need this help the most but are so often overlooked by our society.

Dialysis is not optional. It is life a life-sustaining treatment. Without dialysis treatments, where machines act as kidneys to clean fluids and waste from my body, I would die.

And without AKF’s assistance I’m unsure whether I’d still receive quality health care. As a senior citizen I’d be facing a world of unknowns, including the prospect of being unable to find all new doctors and specialists.

Like many with kidney failure, I suffer from other health conditions, including congestive heart failure, and I rely on well-established relationship with my doctors for an important continuum of quality care.

AB 290 will not just hurt patients who receive AKF’s charitable premium assistance. This bill will end up hurting all dialysis patients in California because it jeopardizes the ability of clinics to cover their costs and stay in business.

Under AB 290, insurance companies would pay lower reimbursement rates to dialysis providers, threatening the ability of dialysis clinics to stay open.

If dialysis clinics close and patients have nowhere to go, we’ll end up in the hospital emergency room, where the cost of dialysis is far more expensive than in an outpatient clinic. And when more patients are forced to seek any kind of care in an emergency room, taxpayers shoulder more costs.

If AB 290 becomes law, I will face thousands of dollars of higher costs. I will have to cut where I can, including my food budget and other necessities. It’s wrong for insurers to sponsor a bill that essentially seeks to kick many of us off their plans, right when we need that coverage the most.

I ask the Legislature to protect the lives and quality of healthcare for patients such as me and to reject AB 290.