Elaine could be described as a woman with great determination and patience. She experienced kidney failure seven years ago and faced the reality of life with a chronic illness. She began receiving dialysis, a four-hour treatment three times a week, and anxiously awaited news of a kidney match. This miracle call happened earlier this year and Elaine was successfully transplanted on March 22, 2017.
Elaine’s journey to receive a kidney transplant gradually unfolded thanks to her determination and the support of many people. She received care from her family and loved ones, who looked after her and shuttled her to and from many dialysis visits. She underwent gastric bypass surgery and worked closely with a dietitian to help her hit the target weight necessary to be eligible for transplant. She was a fortunate recipient of a donated kidney. Lastly, for seven years Elaine received financial support from a charity to afford her insurance premiums.
This financial support, known as charitable assistance, is a vital safety net that Elaine and approximately 15 percent of all dialysis patients need to maintain coverage. Due to the significant amount of time required of dialysis, many people with kidney failure are unable to continue working. Many patients rely on charitable assistance to help cover insurance premiums and other health-related expenses. For patients like Elaine, charitable assistance helps ensure continuous care and allows them to choose the insurance coverage they think is best for them at this most critical time. Without it, many patients may lose their private insurance coverage and with it, a number of other benefits, including access to the specialists they need to see.
Recently, a number of insurance companies have waged an attack against charitable assistance. In fact, thousands of patients have been pushed out of their health insurance plans, facing the horrible reality of having their coverage taken away when they need it most.
Access to insurance, quality care and continuity of coverage for everyone, especially those with severe health issues, must be protected. If not, one group consistently loses: patients. Patients like Elaine.
For more success stories like Elaine’s, there is an equal and significant need for transplant donors — living or deceased. There are 97,000 people on the kidney transplant waiting list and the average wait time for a kidney donor match is three and a half years. Nineteen thousand people received a kidney transplant in 2016; however, that still leaves many more people on the list, waiting to receive the phone call that they have been successfully matched with a donor.
As the health care conversation continues in this country, there should be honest discussions about how patients access high-quality care, are able to visit the doctors and specialists they need, and are allowed to choose the insurance option that best meets their needs. Most importantly, patients in financial need should be able to get assistance, with appropriate guardrails, to help afford the costs.
To learn more, visit DaVita.com/Transplant.
 DaVita Internal Data
 United Network for Organ Sharing website. https://www.unos.org/data/transplant-trends/ Based on OPTN data as of May 25, 2017. Accessed May 25, 2017.
 United States Renal Data System. 2014 USRDS annual data report: Epidemiology of kidney disease in the United States. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, Bethesda, MD, 2014