Kidney bills in state legislatures amid a pandemic

This has been a tough year for kidney patients and living organ donors hoping for relief and widespread change that would improve the lives of those fighting kidney disease. Though hundreds of bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country at the beginning of 2020, as soon as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States most of this legislation came to a screeching halt. Even though some state legislatures are returning to business, the focus has drastically changed to managing the pandemic and trying to find solutions for the massive budget deficits states are now facing.

But it is not all bad news. In 2020, state lawmakers in 19 states introduced legislation to remove financial barriers for organ donors and their employers. So far this year, the governors of Kentucky and Utah have signed such bills into law and the Missouri legislature has sent a bill to the governor’s desk. Nine states have passed resolutions to raise awareness of the importance of organ donation and to increase public education of kidney disease. The governor of Texas signed a bill into law that creates a task force to study chronic kidney disease in order to find ways to better prevent and treat it. A similar bill is also awaiting the signature of the governor of Illinois.

While a bill to extend Medicare Supplement Insurance (Medigap) to patients under 65 in Arizona failed, the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Kelli Butler, intends to reintroduce this important piece of legislation to provide this needed protection to patients.

The pandemic, though devastating, has led lawmakers and health care advocacy groups to focus more attention on legislative measures to protect patients from surprise medical bills and predatory copay accumulator policies from insurance companies, and to expand Medicaid. The American Kidney Fund is on the front lines of these efforts along with dozens of other nonprofit organizations. Several of these bills are likely to pass into law in the coming months.

While the situation is arguably less promising than in previous years, we still see positive changes being enacted for kidney patients. Hopefully, even in these bleak times, this signals the start of a continuing wave of policy changes for the future.


About the Author

Melanie Lynn Kahn

Melanie Lynn Kahn is the director of state policy and advocacy at the American Kidney Fund.