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Vitale-Karcher Bill To Offer Outpatient Dialysis For Uninsured Advances In Assembly

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senators Joseph F. Vitale and Ellen Karcher which would require ambulatory care facilities in New Jersey to provide uncompensated outpatient renal dialysis services for uninsured, low-income people was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee today by a vote of 8-2.

“Renal dialysis is not an elective medical procedure, but a life-sustaining treatment for those living with kidney disease or failure,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “We have an obligation to provide access to this mandatory medical treatment to uninsured, low-income New Jerseyans without the means to pay for it themselves. Outpatient dialysis facility operators should step up, and meet their own obligations to the uninsured in the Garden State.”

“Medicaid covers dialysis treatments, because government already recognizes that the treatment is medically-necessary, even to those without insurance or adequate income,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, the Vice Chair of the Senate Health Committee. “However, for the many New Jersey families living paycheck to paycheck, a bread-winner with kidney disease can’t afford to take time off from work to receive dialysis treatments in a hospital setting, and can’t afford expensive outpatient treatments. This bill would help those State residents who need to work dialysis into their hectic daily schedules have access to their life-saving treatments.”

The bill, S-1250, would require ambulatory renal dialysis facilities to provide a specific amount of renal dialysis services without charge to certain uninsured low-income persons with a total family gross income that would qualify them for charity care services under the current law. The bill states that facilities would be required to provide treatment and services in an amount equal to the Medicare rate of reimbursement for up to 3.5 % of their total dialysis treatments and medication associated with dialysis. Compliance with the regulations of this bill would become a condition of licensure and renewal for outpatient dialysis facilities in New Jersey.

“State licensure is an indication that the licensee meets the standards of public trust set by the State,” said Senator Karcher. “It’s appropriate for New Jersey to require outpatient dialysis facilities to offer treatment to low-income, uninsured individuals as a condition of licensure. New Jersey residents share the costs of health care for those without insurance, and I think it’s time for outpatient dialysis facility operators to step up, and help out.”

“There are 1.4 million people in New Jersey who do not have any sort of health insurance coverage,” said Senator Vitale. “It would be cruel and unusual for New Jersey to turn its backs to the plight of those people, many of whom earn hourly wages and have to squeeze in health care whenever time and money will allow. Our bill would allow all New Jerseyans living with kidney disease to seek out dialysis treatments that fit their lifestyle.”

The bill now heads to the full Assembly for consideration. It was approved by the Senate by a vote of 34-0 last month.

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