Advocacy group opposes dialysis bill

Opposition to AB 290 is becoming more vocal this week. The bill, introduced last week, seeks to curb dialysis center profits, by restricting third party health insurance payments for private insurance.

The California Dialysis Coalition, a group composed of patients and providers launched the Dialysis is Life Support campaign against the bill earlier this month to highlight the importance of access to care for patients. The group issued a statement contending that like last year’s SB 1156, AB 290 would encourage discrimination against dialysis patients who receive payment assistance for private insurance premiums. Governor Brown vetoed AB 1156 last year explaining in his veto statement,

“This bill attempts to prohibit the questionable practice of financially interested entities providing premium assistance payments to patients for the purpose of obtaining higher fees for medical services.

I believe, however, that this bill goes too far as it would permit health plans and insurers to refuse premium assistance payments and to choose which patients they will cover.”

Dialysis is Life Support also criticizes AB 290’s capping the payment rate for plans that are paid for by third parties to the Medicare payment rate. The statement explains,

“Further, the implication that Medicare reimbursement should be the standard of payment is simply inappropriate and would have a devastating impact on access to care for individuals with renal failure. MedPAC, the advisory commission to the US Congress, reported in January 2019 that Medicare payments fall short of cost of dialysis care by 1.1%.”

As we have seen over the last year with these bills and with November’s Proposition 8, dialysis services are big money. Proposition 8 finished its race by drawing the largest amount of money in state history. With the large dialysis companies on one side and the strong SEIU-UHW on the other, AB 290 is poised to be the center of heated arguments this session.