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3.16.2017 On March 8, 18 patient advocates from across the country joined together on Capitol Hill to meet with their elected representatives. The patients came from Tennessee, Ohio, New Jersey, and elsewhere – all with the common goal to raise awareness of kidney disease and discrimination now taking place against kidney patients. Nationwide, some big insurance companies are attempting to keep kidney patients from paying for their health plans if they rely on charitable premium assistance. The event was organized by American Kidney Fund (AKF). Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey, a diabetes patient, spoke to the patient advocates and shared his story. Congressman Payne promised to be an advocate for those who suffer from kidney disease: “You have an advocate in this Congressman to continue to fight to make sure people understand the type of care that is needed in order for you to have a quality of life that you deserve.” Congressman Payne also emphasized his support for AKF and the important role it plays in helping patients afford their life-saving care, noting “Refusal by insurers to accept charitable premium assistance is discriminatory against the most vulnerable patients." Patients spoke out about the role that the AKF has played in their lives and, more specifically, how charitable premium assistance helped them pay and access medical treatment that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to afford. As insurance companies attempt to keep low-income kidney patients from using charitable assistance to pay their bills, patients are struggling to find ways to pay for and access lifesaving medical treatment, often forcing them to choose between their essential dialysis treatments and other necessary expenses. As Elaine Milem, one of the patients, explained: “With the help of the AKF, I was able to have better insurance than I would've had. My expenses were in the $10,000 range. With the help of the AKF and family support, I can be a contributing member of society.” Lori Noyes, another patient advocate, also shared how AKF helped keep her financially afloat during treatment: “AKF came in and helped with the COBRA payments. I can't thank AKF enough. I feel like the least I can do is be here and talk to congressmen and senators about the insurance premium program because it saved me. It truly saved me.” To learn more about the American Kidney Fund, please visit their website at And to learn more about how to help advocate for kidney patients’ rights and protect charitable premium assistance, join the Chronic Disease Coalition.