How Did It Get Political?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Dr. Amy D. Waterman at UCLA’s Division of Nephrology’s Transplant Research and Education Center. We’d met at Landmark’s 2017 Conference for Global Transformation. She has brought to the world of dialysis and transplant the kind of education I want to see offered for Chronic Kidney Disease. I also asked for ideas as to how I could help in developing this kind of contribution to CKD awareness… and the universe answered.

First the bad news, so you can tell when the good news come in. Here in the U.S., The National Kidney Foundation at https://www.kidney.org/news/national-kidney-foundation-statement-macarthur-amendment-to-american-health-care-act issued the following statement on May 3 of this year:
“The National Kidney Foundation opposes the American Health Care Act (AHCA) as amended. The amendment to AHCA, offered by Representative Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), raises significant concerns for millions of Americans affected by chronic diseases. If this bill passes, National Kidney Foundation is highly concerned that insurers in some states will be granted additional flexibility to charge higher premiums, and apply annual and lifetime limits on benefits without a limit on out-of-pocket costs for those with pre-existing conditions, including chronic kidney disease. The bill also permits waivers on Federal protections regarding essential health benefits which could limit patient access to the medications and care they need to manage their conditions. These limits could also include access to dialysis and transplantation. For these reasons, we must oppose the legislation as amended.


In addition, National Kidney Foundation is concerned that the elimination of income based tax credits and cost sharing subsidies, combined with the reduction in funds to Medicaid, will reduce the number of people who will obtain coverage; many of whom have, or are at risk for, chronic kidney disease (CKD).”

The world sees what stress Trump is causing our country (as well as our planet.) Yet, there is hope in the form of a new bill.

“… the bill — introduced in the House by Reps. Tom Marino (R-Pennsylvania), John Lewis (D-Georgia) and Peter Roskam (R-Illinois) — aims to:
• Have the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issue a series of recommendations to Congress on “how to increase kidney transplantation rates; how palliative care can be used to improve the quality of life for those living with kidney disease; and how to better understand kidney disease in minority populations” – to back federal research efforts;
• Create an economically sustainable dialysis infrastructure and modernized quality programs to improve patient care and quality outcomes — for instance, by creating incentives to work in poorer communities and rural areas;
• Increase access to treatment and managed care for patients with a confirmed diagnosis of kidney disease by ensuring Medigap coverage for people living with ESRD, promoting access to home dialysis and allow patients with ESRD to keep their private insurance coverage.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, more than 660,000 Americans are receiving treatment for ESRD. Of these, 468,000 are undergoing dialysis and more than 193,000 have a functioning kidney transplant.”

Thank you to the CDC at bit.ly/2rX8EG5 for this encouraging news. Although it’s just a newly introduced bill at this time, notice the educational aspects of the first point.
For those outside the U.S, who may not know what it is, this is how Medicare was defined in What Is It and How Did I Get It? Early Stage Chronic Kidney Disease “U.S. government health insurance for those over 65, those having certain special needs, or those who have end stage renal disease.”

An interview with Trump while he was campaigning last year was included in SlowItDownCKD 2016, (11/14/16) This is what he had to say about medical coverage for those of us with pre-existing conditions like CKD. (Lesley Stahl is the well-respected interviewer.)
“Lesley Stahl: Let me ask you about Obamacare (Me here: that’s our existing health care coverage.), which you say you’re going to repeal and replace. When you replace it, are you going to make sure that people with pre-conditions are still covered?
Donald Trump: Yes. Because it happens to be one of the strongest assets.’ ….
What does the president elect say about Medicare? Those of us over 65 (That’s me.) have Medicare as our primary insurance. I am lucky enough to have a secondary insurance through my union. How many of the rest of us are? By the way, if Medicare doesn’t’ pay, neither does my secondary.”

This is from the same book:
“Here’s what Trump had to say in a rally in Iowa on December 11th of last year (e.g. meaning 2015).
‘So, you’ve been paying into Social Security and Medicare…but we are not going to cut your Social Security and we’re not cutting your Medicare….'”

We do not have the most truthful president here in the U.S., so you can see how even the introduction of the Marino, Lewis, Roskam bill is good news for us. While this is not meant to be a political blog, our pre-existing illness – our CKD – has caused many of us to unwittingly become political.


I see myself as one such person and so will be attending the AAKP Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida, in September. What’s the AAKP you ask? Their Mission Statement at https://aakp.org/mission/ tells us:

“The American Association of Kidney Patients is dedicated to improving the quality of life for kidney patients through education, advocacy, patient engagement and the fostering of patient communities.

Education
The American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) is recognized as the leader for patient-centered education – continually developing high quality, professionally written, edited and reviewed educational pieces covering every level of kidney disease.

Advocacy
For more than 40 years, AAKP has been the patient voice – advocating for improved access to high-quality health care through regulatory and legislative reform at the federal level. The Association’s work has improved long term outcomes in both quality of health and the ability for patients and family members affected by kidney disease to lead a more productive and meaningful life.

Community
AAKP is leading the effort to bring kidney patients together to promote community, conversations and to seek out services that help maximize patients’ everyday lives.”

For those of you of can’t get to the Conference, they do offer telephone seminars. The next one is June 20th. Go to https://aakp.org/aakp-healthline/ for more information.

Talking about more information, there will be more about AAKP in next week’s blog.
Until next week,
Keep living your life!

A Change is Gonna Come… Or is It?

This has been a confusing week here in the United States. You see, we have a new president-elect. I’m not going to deal with politics in today’s blog, but rather some of the fears we have concerning our health care under this new president. We are Chronic Kidney Disease patients and we have heard so many conflicting rumors.

Let’s start off with a little reassurance in this confusing time. CBS’s Lesley Stahl interviewed President-elect Donald Trump on 60 Minutes yesterday.

youtubeFor those of us who might need some background, CBS is the Columbia Broadcasting System which, of course (It is 2016, after all.), now includes videos as well as live television. You can also find them on YouTube via the specific show’s title. You can hear parts of the interview I wrote about at  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_XSo0cH7X1E&t=43s.

According to IMDb (which describes itself as “…the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity content….”) 60 Minutes is:

The oldest and most-watched newsmagazine (sic) on television gets the real story on America’s most prevalent issues. CBS News correspondents contribute segments to each hour long episode…..” 60-minutes

And who is Lesley Stahl?  Bio.com at http://www.biography.com/people/lesley-stahl-20871751 tells us, “Lesley Stahl is an award-winning television journalist. She’s served as co-editor of 60 Minutes and anchored the news program 48 Hours Investigates.” 

These are not my usual sources, nor is this my usual sort of blog. However, it’s the necessary blog today.

Following is the segment of her interview with the president-elect about Obamacare which you may know as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“Lesley Stahl: Let me ask you about Obamacare, which you say you’re going to repeal and replace. When you replace it, are you going to make sure that people with pre-conditions are still covered?

Donald Trump: Yes. Because it happens to be one of the strongest assets.

lesley-stahlStahl: You’re going to keep that?

Trump: Also, with the children living with their parents for an extended period, we’re gonna–

Stahl: You’re gonna keep that–

Trump: Very much try and keep that. Adds cost, but it’s very much something we’re going to try and keep.

Stahl: And there’s going to be a period if you repeal it and before you replace it, when millions of people could lose -– no?

Trump: No, we’re going to do it simultaneously. It’ll be just fine. We’re not going to have, like, a two-day period and we’re not going to have a two-year period where there’s nothing. It will be repealed and replaced. And we’ll know. And it’ll be great healthcare for much less money. So it’ll be better healthcare, much better, for less money. Not a bad combination.”

Is he definitive? Is he absolute? No, but what makes this hopeful is that during his campaign he announced, “On day one of the Trump Administration, we will ask Congress to immediately deliver a full repeal of Obamacare.” Thank you to Trump’s campaign website at https://www.donaldjtrump.com/positions/healthcare-reform  for this quote. We can see the softening of that position in the 60 Minutes interview.

IMG_2979

We have pre-existing conditions. We cannot abide with a presidency that doesn’t support healthcare which allows for this. I did say this would be a non-political blog, so no more adamancy from me… if I can help it.

What does the president-elect say about Medicare? Most of us over 65 (That’s me.) have Medicare as our primary insurance. I am lucky enough to have a secondary insurance through my union. How many of the rest of us are? By the way, if Medicare doesn’t pay, neither does my secondary.

Here’s what Trump had to say about Medicare in a rally in Iowa on December 11th of last year:

“So, you’ve been paying into Social Security and Medicare…but we are not going to cut your Social Security and we’re not cutting your Medicare….”download

A little clarification is in order. According to their website at Medicare.gov, “Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people who are 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with End-Stage Renal Disease (permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant, sometimes called ESRD).” Then there’s Medicaid. “Medicaid is a joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with limited income and resources. Medicaid also offers benefits not normally covered by Medicare, like nursing home care and personal care services,” according to their website at Medicare.gov.

But then I found the following in a Forbes article by Janet Novack on 11/10/16 at http://www.forbes.com/sites/janetnovack/2016/11/10/will-president-trump-cut-medicare-and-social-security-as-well-as-taxes/#7115535a43f1

“… two big spending cuts Trump has endorsed— a House Republican plan to cut Medicaid spending by $500 billion over a decade by turning it into a capped “block grant” payment to the states and the “penny a year” plan, which requires that all non-defense, discretionary spending be cut 1% a forbesyear in nominal terms, saving $750 billion over a decade (without, conveniently, spelling out which programs would get chopped).”

I admit it. I am in over my head. Does this mean that while Medicare will pay if you have ESRD, you still may be on the hook for personal care services IF Trump’s capped block grant payment to states comes into being? Does it mean dialysis will be covered, but possibly not a nursing home stay necessitated by something secondary to your dialysis?

I don’t have ESRD, but Medicare (and my secondary insurance) covers my labs and nephrologist’s appointments. Let’s say the cap goes through, I have a UTI – heaven forbid – that causes me to need a nurse (I know, I’m stretching the issue.), but my income has gone way down. Will Medicaid be available?

While I meant to write a reassuring blog today, I think I’ve raised more issues to question instead. I am not a politician, nor am I politically savvy. BUT, I am a Chronic Kidney Disease patient who needs some kind of reassurance that I won’t be left without the coverage I need.stages of CKD

Hey, that’s another thing: whatever happened to Trump’s campaign promise about letting us order less expensive medications from other countries? Did I miss the update on that one?

Until next week,

Keep living your life!