Vitale-Karcher Bill To Offer Outpatient Dialysis For Uninsured Advances

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 Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee today by a vote of 8-0, with 2 abstentions.

“Today in New Jersey, 1.3 million people do not have health insurance,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex, the Chair of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “Living without the most basic health care coverage can make dealing with even minor medical conditions difficult, and can make complex, expensive procedures like dialysis impossible. We need to give New Jersey’s uninsured a helping hand, and ensure that economic status does not keep New Jerseyans from the health care they so desperately need.”

“Dialysis is a costly, and necessary, medical procedure for people living with renal disorders or kidney problems,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer, the Vice Chair of the Committee. “In New Jersey, the State and hospitals have partnered to provide an emergency health care safety net for the uninsured, but in cases when uninsured individuals require constant outpatient care, they realize our net has holes. When it comes to medically-necessary care, whether it’s in a hospital or a health care clinic, we have a moral obligation to provide access to everyone.”

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.

“New Jersey has consistently stood up and met our obligations to the uninsured,” said Senator Vitale. “Under the current law, if an uninsured person goes to a hospital in need of dialysis, they are admitted, but if they go to an ambulatory facility, where they are able to receive care with minimal disruption to their lives, they are turned away. Renal dialysis is a life-saving procedure that should be provided at all centers, to all comers, regardless of income.”

“One of the messages we heard loud and clear today was that people living with renal disease can still lead full, productive lives,” said Senator Karcher. “They hold jobs, raise families and are active in their communities. For someone on the run, an outpatient setting for renal dialysis seems like a perfect fit, but for so many, the high costs can be cost-prohibitive – this bill ensures access for everybody.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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