Dialysis patients question coverage cuts

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Many kidney dialysis patients need help paying their supplemental insurance which covers things that Medicare won't. But expensive premiums once paid by the American Kidney Fund (AKF) are being denied. Patients who have policies with companies charging more than $500 a month are being forced to get cheaper plans or pay the monthly premium out of pocket.

David Cujas' Medigap coverage, supplemental insurance is $1166 a month.

"I don't know where the money came from initially but, I was very grateful to have it. All of a sudden you know it's stopping," he said.

West End Dialysis, Fresenius Medical Care applied for grant money on David's behalf and the American Kidney Fund paid his premiums. David called 12 after seeing my report on another dialysis patient, Barry Druin, who goes to DaVita Dialysis Clinic but faces the same dilemma.

"You have given him a death sentence. You can't stop the medication that's what keeps him alive," said Barry's wife Linda Druin.

Losing grant money for premiums frightens David too. The diabetic has had two heart surgeries and a partial leg amputation.  He recalls how he says the clinic's social worker informed him.

"She just looked at me square in the eye and said, 'As of the end of June, you won't have a policy anymore.' While I was getting dialysis and said, 'we are not paying for it anymore,'" David said. "I'm afraid of dying."

No one will be barred from dialysis. But the fund's vice president says patients need to ask for help finding cheaper coverage if they haven't been able to on their own. AKF tells me the number of patients nationwide with policies from companies charging expensive plans, is 8% of the people it serves. It won't pay those escalating prices for Medigap policies after June 30th.

"That 500 dollar limit, whose rule is that?" asked David.

The American Kidney Fund Vice President Tammy Ruggiero says it's staff is being prepped to better answer patients' questions and offer help finding alternative coverage. Both dialysis patients I spoke with say they have supplemental insurance through Blue Cross Blue Shield.

Copyright 2011 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved.