by Gary Peterson
Today, U.S. dialysis patients will be represented at a congressional briefing by LaVarne A. Burton, President & CEO of American Kidney Fund, a 4-star non-profit charity. Do dialysis patients know that LaVarne Burton is posturing herself to both U.S. legislators as well as the mainstream U.S. press as someone who represents dialysis patients?
Is there any other 4-star non-profit charity that does not openly provide information about which six sources are giving them over $150 million in contributions? The American Kidney Fund fails to fill in the name of its biggest contributors on its on-line tax forms: http://www.kidneyfund.org/about-us/assets/pdfs/akf-990-2012.pdf . This scheme of hiding the names of its largest contributors on its tax forms has been ongoing for many, many years.
In truth, the American Kidney Fund acts like a rigged slot machine in a casino, paying off enormously for dialysis corporations every time they put in their money into the AKF system. It is illegal for these dialysis corporations to directly pay the insurance premiums of its dialysis patients. Instead, dialysis corporations “donate” millions of dollars to the AKF. The AKF then distributes nearly all of this money to dialysis patients so that they can pay their private health insurance premiums. In return, the dialysis corporations are able to bill the patients' insurance companies exorbitant fees for dialysis treatments that are 10 times, 20 times, or even 30 times or more than Medicare or Medicaid rates. AKF is a legal money laundering organization that richly rewards dialysis corporations and also pays enormous salaries to the highest officials in the AKF.
The legislation that will be discussed at today's briefing will expand this scheme.
As a non-profit organization, the AKF also spent $1 million in 2012 in lobbying expenditures. The AKF gives to congressmen and women that will perpetuate and expand this arrangement. The AKF should be considered a lobbying for of the large for-profit dialysis provider corporations.
LaVarne Burton is a powerful personality who postures the AKF to represent African Americans who are disproportionately affected by kidney disease. She received over $436,000 in compensation from the AFK in 2012. The AKF accountant also received over $234,000. The AKF administrative assistant (listed as VP) received over $169,000. This payment scheme has been going on for many, many years. It is apparent that no one in this organization has any incentive to change the status quo while they represent themselves as dialysis patient advocates.
Shouldn't patient-focused legislation attempt to end the enslavement of more than 85% of dialysis patients to a treatment regimens that no nephrologists would choose for themselves? How about restoring more patients to health and improving a dismal employment rate among working-age patients? When will legislation finally focus on improving the quality of dialysis patients' lives instead of increasing revenues for corporations and nephrologists?
Chronic dialysis care continues to be medicine practiced primarily for money, not for patients. Unfortunately, the first question one should ask any dialysis-related 'patient' or 'non-profit' organization is, "How much income to you derive from for-profit corporations?"