It makes no sense for federal policies to prevent charities from assisting Americans

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As Hanna describes it, her family wasn’t wealthy, but they weren’t destitute either, so they didn’t want to accept charity because they thought they didn’t deserve.

“But even with a good job and income, when you have a child with a chronic illness, it doesn’t matter,” says Hanna (whose last name is withheld for privacy). “The medical bills pile up so quickly and become a huge burden, more than you can imagine. Even a $40 co-payment support keeps you from going into debt.”

{mosads}Although the disease her niece suffers from is rare, Hanna’s story is all too common for individuals with diseases of all types in America. Costs of care are nearly guaranteed to be too much for the average person to bare. Americans living with chronic and life-threatening illnesses, such as cancer, HIV/AIDS, autoimmune diseases, and other chronic or rare conditions, often face prohibitive costs to simply maintain their health insurance.

 

Often, individuals must choose between their treatments and paying for everyday living expenses like groceries, rent, and other items that most of us take for granted. Charitable organizations like the one I manage relieve part of this burden to allow for the opportunity to focus on the things that matter most: family and friends.

Non-profit premium and cost-sharing assistance charities provide a safety net for patients by temporarily stepping in to help patients cover the costs of the care they need to effectively manage their conditions — at no cost to the public.  

But confused and misguided criticisms towards the rising costs of care now threaten the very organizations that provide a lifeline to patients in dire need.

An Obama-era U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services policy even allows health insurers offering plans under the Affordable Care Act to deny non-profit charities from providing patients with premium and co-pay assistance.

Currently, health insurers in 41 states cite this rule to deny coverage to needy patients. Without financial assistance, hundreds of thousands of people will not get medicine that is vital to their health.

Congressman Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) recently introduced a bill with bipartisan support to correct this harmful CMS guidance. If the legislation were to pass, it would be a step in the right direction. That is why our charity will join a coalition of like-minded organizations on Capitol Hill this week to urge the passage of this bill.  

Everyone needs access to care so they can address a given illness. But access to care is also about getting more time to experience special moments, the birthdays, weddings, graduations, and family moments that make life worth living.

The ACA led to millions of newly insured Americans, though most still cannot afford their medical bills even with insurance. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reported this year that medical bills are the most common reason for someone to be contacted by a debt collector. Meanwhile, Americans cannot be certain that charitable support will be made available in times of great need.

Patients are left sick and scared. Hanna, not unlike many of the tens of thousands of individuals my charity works with each year, needs to know if she can continue to rely on charitable assistance when she needs it most. We cannot build a better healthcare system if we forgo access to care and allow the less affluent among us to fall through the cracks. Patient assistance charities can make all the difference between life and death.

Now that lawmakers are working to reduce government health-care spending, it makes no sense for federal policy to prevent charities from assisting Americans with particularly costly conditions. Instead, we should work with these charities to develop patient-first solutions to our national healthcare challenges.

Clorinda Walley is the executive director of Good Days, a national, independent non-profit charitable organization that assists patients so that they do not have to choose between access to medicine they need and affording everyday living.

Tags charities Health care Kevin Cramer

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