Despite Years of Public Service to California, Legislature Considers Bill That Would Devastate my Family

Annie Maldonaldo-Escalera

For years, I worked as a nurse helping others and serving the public, and now the Legislature is considering a bill that would devastate my entire family.

Assembly Bill 290 would wipe out a charitable program that helps low income Californians like me pay for kidney dialysis. The bill would leave my husband and me – who care for our 23-year-old son with autism in our home – unable to pay our medical bills.

That might sound like a simple hardship to some. But for us, it virtually means a matter of life or death, all so insurance companies can continue to pad their profits.

Both my husband and I suffer from kidney failure and rely on regular dialysis to stay alive. We were forced to retire early because of illness and, as a result, we live on a very low income.

Kidney failure already is devastating for anyone who receives the diagnosis and dialysis becomes a difficult but necessary way of life. Two years ago, I had a stroke and found out my kidneys were failing while in the hospital.

Before that, I worked as a school nurse, a nurse in a county jail and a nurse at the Coalinga State Hospital and local county jail.

Now, we simply don’t have the means to pay all of our expenses, medical bills, and insurance premiums and the Legislature is considering turning its back on us, despite my years of public service. The non-profit American Kidney Fund’s Charitable Premium Assistance program enables us to pay for our health insurance which pays for our dialysis treatments. My husband and I each must get dialysis three times a week, for three to four hours at a time, to survive.

Just speaking about the unbearable possibility of losing this assistance that my husband and I both rely upon brings me to tears. If AB 290 becomes law, we could lose access to regular life-sustaining dialysis treatments, which could lead to our deaths.

But my biggest fear is that I truly do not know what my son, who relies on my husband and me for his care, would do. Who would care for him?

AB 290 attacks thousands of vulnerable, low-income dialysis patients like me. In 2018, more than 3,700 Californians on dialysis received financial assistance from the American Kidney Fund.

The American Kidney Fund has been helping patients whose finances have been devastated by kidney failure for nearly 50 years, and it’s one of the top-rated charities in the country. If AB 290 passes, the charity will be forced to cease its assistance program in California because of strict, bureaucratic, insurance company backed rules contained in the measure.

The bill, sponsored by these profit-seeking insurance companies, also threatens dialysis clinic access for more than 70,000 dialysis patients in California because it will slash funding for dialysis clinics. The measure seeks to force patients onto government programs and lower the amount insurance companies have to reimbursement clinics, which would make some dialysis clinics unable to cover their costs, possibly shutting their doors and leaving fewer options for patients to find dialysis treatment centers near them.

Fewer treatment options and inability to get dialysis will drive many California patients to hospital emergency rooms at a much higher cost to the health care system and taxpayers in general.

I spent my career caring for Californians. AB 290 is an injustice to all like me who need financial assistance. The bill puts insurance company profits ahead of the health of Californians who need dialysis to stay alive.

And for my husband and me, and many others – including many who also served the public as teachers, law officers and more – it will affect the well-being of our entire family. My son needs us. I sincerely hope the state I served does not let me and my family down.

I hope legislators reject AB 290.

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