American Kidney Fund announces significant enhancements to charitable premium assistance program

Patient-focused enhancements include lengthening period of post-transplant assistance for up to a year

Rockville, Maryland

ROCKVILLE, Maryland, Feb. 14, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The American Kidney Fund (AKF)—the nation’s leading nonprofit working on behalf of Americans with kidney disease—today announced that it will enhance its Health Insurance Premium Program (HIPP) to provide post-transplant charitable premium assistance to patients for a full plan year. The transplant modification is one of several significant HIPP enhancements that go into effect April 1.

“The enhancements will ensure that the program continues to provide assistance to patients who need it most, and we believe these enhancements can serve as a model as the federal government considers what kinds of safeguards and parameters should exist for patient assistance programs,” said LaVarne A. Burton, president and chief executive officer of AKF, a nonprofit that provides direct financial assistance that enables 1 in 5 U.S. dialysis patients to afford health coverage. “We are hopeful that the program enhancements we are rolling out will make HIPP stronger for the tens of thousands of patients who rely on our assistance.”

Established in 1997, AKF’s HIPP program provides need-based health insurance premium support to dialysis patients who otherwise cannot afford to pay premiums for Medicare Part B, Medigap, COBRA, employer group, commercial and exchange plans.

Making enhancements to this vital program is one component of AKF’s broader effort to advance public policy that protects patients’ access to charitable premium assistance. AKF has proposed to federal policymakers a set of uniform safeguards for nonprofit organizations that assist patients with premiums and other healthcare expenses. AKF strongly supports the Access to Marketplace Insurance Act, H.R. 3976, which has 112 bipartisan co-sponsors. And AKF has been alerting state and federal regulators and lawmakers about the dangers of the health insurance industry’s increasingly widespread, discriminatory practice of refusing to accept charitable premium payments on behalf of kidney patients for Medigap. For low-income kidney patients who are enrolled in Medicare Part B, this insurer action results in patients no longer being able to afford the supplemental coverage that protects them from Part B’s unlimited 20 percent out-of-pocket cost burden.

In keeping with its half-century mission of supporting patients who are on dialysis, AKF has historically continued to assist patients for up to one calendar quarter post-transplant, making it financially possible for patients to have kidney transplant surgery. After conducting a thorough review of the program, AKF has determined the program will be expanded to support premiums for the full plan year for those patients who have transplants.

“Our mission is helping people fight kidney disease and live healthier lives, no matter where they are in their fight against the disease. Our wide variety of education, prevention and financial assistance programs help people whether they’re at risk, or they are in the early stages of kidney disease, or they have experienced kidney failure,” said Burton. “For someone who experiences kidney failure, a transplant is a second chance at life, and by extending HIPP assistance for our grant recipients who have had transplants, we will be giving them additional support as they make the transition from dialysis to living with a transplanted kidney.”  

 Other modifications and enhancements announced today and to be instituted April 1 include:

  • Enhancements to AKF’s assistance for Medigap: In states where Medigap is available to kidney failure patients under 65, these patients are sometimes subject to higher premiums than Medicare enrollees over 65. As Medigap premiums continue to rise, AKF has expanded its funding for this type of insurance so that any dialysis patient nationwide who needs help affording Medigap can receive that help from AKF, regardless of premium amount.
  • HIPP Patient Handbook: AKF has developed a handbook for patients, written in plain language and available in both English and Spanish, that addresses the questions patients most frequently ask AKF about HIPP.
  • Patient Rights and Responsibilities: This document explains the rights and responsibilities that individuals have when they receive HIPP assistance from AKF. For example, it explains that patients have the right to independently choose the health coverage that is best for them, and they have the responsibility to ensure their application for assistance is accurate and complete.
  • Dialysis Provider Code of Conduct: As a complement to informing patients of their rights and responsibilities, AKF is instituting a voluntary code of conduct for all dialysis clinics that refer patients to AKF for assistance. This code of conduct allows providers to affirm that they are operating in a fully compliant manner when referring patients to AKF for charitable premium assistance.

“AKF’s Health Insurance Premium Program has been a vital component of the nation’s safety net for dialysis patients for the past 21 years,” Burton said. “HIPP helps the 1 out of every 5 dialysis patients who otherwise could not afford to pay the premiums for Medicare Part B, Medigap, COBRA, employer group health and commercial health insurance policies. This program is vital to helping kidney patients get the health care they need, and we are dedicated to ensuring that the program stays strong for all those who depend on it.”

About the American Kidney Fund

As the nation’s leading 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.

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