ROCKVILLE, Md. (January 26, 2022) – The American Kidney Fund (AKF) today announces strong support for the passage of Virginia Senate Bill 271. SB 271 would prevent life, disability and long-term care insurers from discriminating against living organ donors by charging them higher premiums or refusing to insure them altogether and require employers to provide employees who donate an organ with job-protected leave during recovery from surgery.
AKF has been working closely with the bill's patron, Senator Adam Ebbin (District 30), to spearhead the legislation and is thankful for his commitment to enacting protections for living donors in the state. AKF's Senior Director of State Policy and Advocacy, Melanie Lendnal, and AKF Ambassador Kat Velkoff, a living kidney donor, testified on behalf of the bill in the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor. The bill passed out of that committee and will next be heard in the Senate Finance Committee. Since 2017, AKF has been working with state lawmakers across the country on living donor protection legislation. If this bill passes, Virginia will join the 20 states that now provide living organ donors with these important protections, thanks to AKF's efforts.
"Living donor protections, like those in Virginia's SB 271, remove barriers and make it possible for more people to choose to give the gift of life," said LaVarne A. Burton, AKF President and CEO. "Ending discrimination against living organ donors and ensuring they are able to take time off from their jobs to recover from surgery is good public policy that will help save the lives of Virginians awaiting transplantation. We encourage the Virginia General Assembly to act swiftly to pass the bill and Governor Youngkin to sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk."
Increasing living donor protections is a cornerstone of AKF's policy agenda. AKF's State of the States: Living Donor Protection Report Card measures seven types of legislation states should enact to provide protections for living organ donors and encourage living donations. In the absence of federal legislation to protect living donors, there is an uneven patchwork of protections across the nation, with some states providing no protections at all. With just two protections for living donors in place, Virginia currently has a C grade on AKF's Report Card; SB 271 would move Virginia's grade up to a B. The average grade for the U.S. is a D.
"I have been very blessed in that the COVID-19 pandemic has given me more free time than I usually have, and I spent that time donating a kidney to a stranger I can now call my friend," said Velkoff, who was told by her social worker that she should purchase life insurance prior to donation at age 31 because having one kidney is considered a preexisting condition. "I am hopeful SB 271 will allow other people who have financial concerns about donating an organ to make that lifesaving gift without worrying about how their decision will impact their life insurance or other costs as they get older. There is so much testing done on living donors to ensure we are healthy enough for donation, as well as overwhelming evidence that we live just as long as similarly healthy people who have two kidneys. There is no reason for our life, disability or long-term care insurance costs to be higher than anyone else's — and certainly no justification for us to be denied insurance altogether."
Most transplanted organs are from deceased donors, but patients may also receive organs from living donors. Living donation offers an alternative for individuals awaiting transplantation from a deceased donor and increases the existing organ supply. Transplants from living donors generally have fewer complications than deceased donor transplants and a longer survival of the donor organ.
There are more than 106,000 Americans on the organ transplant waiting list and 92,000 of them, or 86%, are waiting for a kidney. In Virginia, 2,308 people are currently on the kidney transplant waiting list. Of the 25,489 kidney transplants performed in the U.S. in 2021, just 5,970 were made possible by living organ donors. In Virginia, 170 of 684 kidney transplants performed in 2021 were from living donors.
AKF provides long-term financial assistance that makes transplants and post-transplant care possible for low-income dialysis patients. In 2021, AKF grants helped nearly 1,800 people nationwide receive kidney transplants — 7% of all kidney transplants performed in the United States last year. AKF's program helps post-transplant patients for their full insurance plan year, ensuring continuity of care.
About the American Kidney Fund
The American Kidney Fund (AKF) fights kidney disease on all fronts as the nation’s leading kidney nonprofit. AKF works on behalf of the 37 million Americans living with kidney disease, and the millions more at risk, with an unmatched scope of programs that support people wherever they are in their fight against kidney disease—from prevention through transplant. With programs that address early detection, disease management, financial assistance, clinical research, innovation and advocacy, no kidney organization impacts more lives than AKF. One of the nation’s top-rated nonprofits, AKF invests 97 cents of every donated dollar in programs, earning the highest 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator for 20 years in a row as well as the Platinum Seal of Transparency from Candid, formerly GuideStar.