Bay Area man with diabetes on dialysis says changes to his health care plan puts his life at risk

"It's not hard to die. It is hard to live. That is what I am scared of."

ByAnser Hassan KGO logo
Monday, December 19, 2022
Bay Area man with diabetes says health care changes puts life at risk
Health care laws and regulations starting in 2023 will impact a visually-impaired Benicia man living with diabetes kept alive by dialysis.

BENICIA, Calif. (KGO) -- The new year will bring in a lot of new laws and regulations. That includes changes to some health care plans.

"It's not hard to die. It is hard to live. That is what I am scared of," says Joe Perez.

The 65-year-old lives in Benicia. He is blind and uses a wheelchair. He has been doing dialysis three days a week for the past six years. It all began 20 years ago with the on-set of his diabetes.

"When I started to lose my eye sight, my sugar stayed up so high, I was getting organ damage. The kidney was the one that took the toll. And so now, I don't even urinate. I haven't urinated for four years," he explains.

Dialysis is what's keeping him alive. But changes to his Kaiser health insurance means an end to the free shuttle service that gets him to and from his treatments.

"They would like me to go to a different tier, but then I would have to pay a whole lot more. And just don't have that kind of money. There is no way," he says.

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Perez is resourceful. The former mechanic owned his own business. He has built devices to help him navigate around his house. But living on social security means his finances are limited. Alternative shuttle services don't offer the door to door service he needs. And the ones that do, he can't afford.

"I don't know what else to do. I am up a rock and a hard place. I even called the city. The ADA people down there. Not even a call back yet," says Perez.

Perez says he just learned of the change two weeks ago. He says he been working with Kaiser, but no solution.

"I started, this is last week, about 10:30 in the morning. I didn't get done with Kaiser until 4:30 in the afternoon," explains Parez.

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Kaiser wasn't available for comment for this story. But several of their health care plans received 5 out of 5 stars in the annual Medicare Star Quality Ratings for 2023. And for 13 consecutive years, all of Kaiser Permanente's Medicare health plans have been rated 4.0 stars or higher.

Perez's personal theory is that the U.S. health care system is set up to keep seniors out.

"What I think is happening is they are trying to thin the heard out. There are so many older people now, it's overwhelming the system. And they feel like they are throwing money out. If we take something away, they can't get the things, and they will just give up," says Perez.

Perez says his family help out, but they can't help financially. Still, he says he Is not giving up. He has to fight. It's the only way for him to stay alive.

"If I stop (dialysis), between 17 to 30 days I will die," says Perez.

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