At 20 years old, I was diagnosed with end stage renal disease (ESRD), or kidney failure. Two years later, I began receiving dialysis.

I was employed upon diagnosis, but lost my job before beginning dialysis. I began dialysis on Medicare. Since Medicare only covers 80%, and my disability income disqualified me from Medicaid, I could not cover the remaining 20%. I went deep into medical debt just to survive. Six years of dialysis, a kidney transplant and 15 years later, I can now say that I am out of debt. I became a nurse, received an MBA, worked hard, and paid it off. Many aren’t so fortunate.

Many ESRD patients lose their private insurance upon beginning dialysis, not because they were fired (like me), but because insurers reduce care to cut costs — pushing patients onto Medicare too early. So I am petitioning Congressman Jeff Van Drew to cosponsor the bipartisan Restore Protections for Dialysis Patients Act, which would allow dialysis patients to keep their private insurance for the first 30 months of treatment.

I hope Congressman Van Drew will do the right thing and cosponsor this bill so future ESRD patients don’t have to face exorbitant bills.

Shekeila Harris, Vineland, New Jersey