OP-ED: New bill would help improve care for dialysis patients

By Margaret Hasan

October 7, 2020





My daughter’s kidneys failed when she was just 23 years old, marking the beginning of a long and difficult path on dialysis. Her treatments were incredibly straining and gradually weakened her until, about ten years ago, she had to undergo open-heart surgery because of the stress her dialysis treatments put on her circulatory system.


Throughout the entire process, though, we were fortunate to work with a great medical team. My daughter’s nephrologist also handles her primary care, and works closely alongside her cardiologist to share information about her appointments and ensure that their treatments do not interfere with each other. For patients like my daughter, whose circulatory system went through a great deal of stress while she was on dialysis, this is absolutely essential to staying healthy and ensuring that treatments accomplish what they are supposed to rather than creating avoidable problems.


However, I know that things are very different for other patients both here in California and across the country. They have many different doctors who do not communicate as closely as my daughter’s doctors, resulting in more appointments, higher medical costs, and even conflicting medications. A lot of dialysis patients suffer from additional health problems, too, which means that a lack of coordination among their providers could be devastating for them. Thankfully, this is a problem that can be solved with the right legislative actions.


That’s why it has been encouraging to see some in Congress working to make coordinated care more accessible to all dialysis patients. A new bill called the BETTER Kidney Care Act would help put a system in place for dialysis patients’ doctors to coordinate more effectively. It also provides additional help for dialysis patients as well, like transportation to their local clinics and dental treatments. It would be a major help for California’s dialysis patients, and they need Representative Mark DeSaulnier and our other members of Congress to support these efforts. Several California members, such as Representative Nanette Barragan, have already signed on, which is promising early progress for this important bill.


Thankfully, he and California’s other Representatives in Washington, D.C. also have a strong track record when it comes to this issue. In 2017, Rep. DeSaulnier and nearly 30 other Representatives from California on both sides of the political aisle helped to support a bill called the Dialysis PATIENTS Demonstration Act. This bill, like the BETTER Kidney Care Act, was designed to help give a boost to dialysis patients’ access to care coordination services, though it did not pass.


Given care coordination’s strong bipartisan history, I am sure that Congress will recognize the importance of improving health care, especially as we continue dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. Dialysis patients are at a higher risk than many others for being seriously affected by the virus, so this is the perfect time to pass this bill and bring better, more comprehensive care to the 90,000 patients in California and the hundreds of thousands of patients across the rest of the U.S. who are struggling with kidney failure.


My daughter spent 23 years on dialysis before receiving her transplant this year. Those 23 years were aided greatly by strong care coordination, and this bill can help other families dealing with kidney disease get that help, too. It will help to prevent many of the avoidable problems a lack of care coordination can create, and make sure that every patient gets a treatment plan that best meets their individual needs. I trust that lawmakers from both political parties in Washington will come together to support this vital legislation.


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