SACRAMENTO – JUNE 4, 2019 – Californians rallied to “Protect Kidney Patients” on the steps of the State Capitol Building. California NAACP, organ donors, transplant recipients, leading advocates, medical professionals and dialysis patients alike joined to demand action from their State Senators to support patients living with kidney failure, and the individuals who offer lifesaving organ transplants by voting No on AB 290 (Wood) and Yes on AB 1223 (Arambula).
“Last year the American Kidney Fund helped more than 3,700 California patients living with kidney failure to pay for their health insurance premiums,” said Holly Bode, vice president of government affairs for the American Kidney Fund (AKF). “AKF has been helping low-income kidney patients for nearly 50 years as an independent nonprofit,” she said.
AB 290 threatens thousands of low-income and mostly minority dialysis and transplant patients in California who are at risk of losing their health insurance should the legislation pass. The bill will force AKF to stop helping California patients with health insurance premiums they cannot afford, effectively blocking patients’ access to the care they need.
On the other hand, AB 1223, the California Living Donor Protection Act, would help encourage living organ donation by protecting living donors from discrimination by life, disability and long-term care insurers. It would also extend job-protected leave by requiring employers to provide up to 60 business days of unpaid organ donation leave.
In California, 95% of organs transplanted from living donors in 2018 were kidneys.
“Because of the severity of my conditions, I have to live on disability paychecks that make it impossible to make ends meet without charitable premium assistance,” explained La Tisha Reed, a dialysis patient from Ladera Heights. “I believe legislators need to hear from patients like myself to truly understand the impact this legislation will have due to the fact that the people who stand to lose the most have no other alternatives for seeking out high-quality care.”
“Living donors are the most selfless people on earth. Their gift gives life, and it’s important that we encourage living donation, not penalize it,” said Yvonne Sanchez, dialysis patient from El Monte. “That’s why I support AB 1223 to protect living donors from insurance discrimination and to give them guaranteed, job-protected leave. AB 290, on the other hand, threatens the charitable premium assistance that allows thousands of patients, like me, to afford the quality care we need.”
“If our state legislators are supposed to protect our interests and well-being, why are they considering legislation that will result in harm to me, and thousands of patients like me?” asked Russell Desmond, another AKF grant recipient. “AKF stepped in and provided the stability and support required to continue moving forward without any hesitation. The support AKF has provided has benefitted not only me, but my loved ones who have stood by me, as I fight renal failure.”
Other stakeholders include the California-Hawaii chapter of the NAACP, whose goal is to ensure equality for minority residents throughout the state.
“This is an issue we care about because people of color suffer from kidney failure at significantly higher rates than the general population,” said Selena Pryor, legislative coordinator for the California NAACP. “African Americans constitute more than one-third of all patients receiving dialysis for kidney failure, but represent only 13% of the overall U.S. population. We need to do everything we can to make it easier for these patients to receive an organ transplant, not impose additional barriers and hardships for patients already inundated with medical bills and illnesses related to renal failure.”
AKF will continue its advocacy efforts across the state to ensure that equal access to quality health care is a reality for kidney patients and priority for legislators across the state.
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 low-income U.S. dialysis and transplant patients to access lifesaving medical care. 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.