Having kidney problems is expensive. Like, really expensive. If you don’t have insurance and you have to pay out of pocket, dialysis alone is going to cost you somewhere between $53,000 to $72,000 a year. It could be more or less depending on where you live and what type of dialysis you receive, these are average numbers. That’s not including any of the medications you’ll have to take, or transportation back and forth the three times a week you’ll need to be there, or any procedures you’ll need, like getting a fistula put in or things like that. It also doesn’t include the costs of the things you need to keep the fistula or port clean or anything like that. That’s just the straight-up cost of having a machine do the job your kidneys are supposed to.
And if, for whatever reason, you need to get emergency dialysis at a hospital, your wallet will take a serious hit. They have been known to charge upward of $9,000 for a treatment! So be prepared to only have your emergencies during your regular doctor’s hours or while your dialysis center is open if you don’t have a lot of money.
The good news is that insurance companies have to pay for dialysis. The bad news is that there’s often a copay or cap or something. Another fun fact: your insurance company, not your doctor, decides how many times a week is medically necessary for you to receive dialysis. Usually they’ll cover you up to three times a week (which is often what your doctor recommends anyway), unless you meet certain criteria or have certain conditions. Many won’t approve home dialysis unless you are in end-stage kidney failure. Sometimes, your regular insurance only covers things for a month while you wait for Medicare to kick in, so they make you rent everything.
It’s very difficult to deal with everything you need for dialysis in the first place. Kidney failure isn’t fun, either. You don’t have a lot of energy and it’s almost impossible to work (or go to school) full time when you have to be at a dialysis center three times a week for hours each time. When work is the main source of insurance for most people, that’s a problem. And for me to be covered under my parents’ insurance, I was supposed to be a full-time student, which I stopped being when I graduated.
There was no other treatment option for me, so my parents had no choice but to pay everything that the insurance company told us that we owed so that I could continue to get treatment. While they always try to keep me out of the financial aspects of everything, I know it is something that they stress over.
We really need to push to make sure that people continue to have access to the care that they need, especially with something as expensive and life-saving as dialysis. It needs to be affordable enough so that nobody has to decide between food, shelter, or treatment. I may be young, but I can still send letters to my congressional representatives to fight the good fight and make sure that people have access to affordable care.