Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios said that providing care and finding additional resources for patients who are suffering from kidney disease should be looked into in order to curb the rising costs of treating those who could no longer afford it.
That sentiment was prompted by Dr. Magdy Maksy, the Commonwealth Health Center’s nephrologist and dialysis medical director, who said that the hospital treats patients who are on dialysis despite their lack of funds.
“We can’t simply tell them that they can’t get dialysis or let them die since [they] don’t have money. Ethically, we can’t do that,” she said, adding that many states in the U.S. mainland consider kidney disease a life-threatening emergency that needs life-sustaining treatment.
“If you don’t provide the coverage, the patient will die. There are people who have been working and living on the island that don’t have any health insurance. But we have to provide treatment for them; we have to. Even though we don’t get any reimbursement for that,” she added.
Palacios signed Monday the proclamation that designates March as National Kidney Month.
Palacios told Saipan Tribune that, although a lot of local patients have access to Medicaid or Medicare, the government must still do more.
“What was being talked about is to take a closer look at the cost of providing care. So, we also have to provide [healthcare] help to even non-citizens and to those folks without insurance or access to financial resources,” Palacios said. “We need to take a close look…to see…how we could either come up with an insurance plan or [a system of] some sort to help curb the cost that CHCC absorbs.”
This could be another issue for discussion when the Torres administration and the Legislature prepare the CNMI’s fiscal year 2020 budget, he said. “We can find ways where we can fund this.”
Palacios said the community must also be made aware that kidney disease is one of the more prevalent chronic diseases in the CNMI. “We need to have continuing efforts to provide healthcare. We need to push for this and efforts on prevention.”
Type II diabetes and hypertension are main causes of kidney disease and renal failure, which is the fourth leading cause of death in the CNMI. Local data also showed that at least one in 10 CNMI adults has diabetes or within the 12 percent to 18 percent range while another 56 percent have hypertension.
Obesity is also a major driver of diabetes and hypertension. In the CNMI, two out of every three adults are overweight or obese. Another third of adults in the Commonwealth are borderline obese.
Palacios said he knows of friends and relatives who had succumbed to renal disease, which could have been prevented. “We must pool our resources to prevent this. We must encourage our people [to cultivate] a healthier lifestyle. …What’s it going to take? It is just the matter of getting together with the government and providing additional resources. I would like to recommend that perhaps this body of experts in this room can brainstorm and see what we can do beyond dialysis.”