Welcome to our What's happening in the states blog series, where we provide monthly legislative updates on what the American Kidney Fund (AKF) is working on across the country to improve the lives of those living with kidney disease and protect living organ donors.
AKF is currently working on more than 150 bills in 48 states, and we are seeing great progress thanks to our dedicated Ambassadors! Kentucky just signed their Living Donor Protection Act of 2021 and an accumulator ban bill into law, and New Jersey's Living Donor Protection Act has already passed the state legislature and is awaiting the governor's signature. With Kentucky's new protections for living donors, their grade moves up from a D to a C on our State of the States: Living Donor Protection Report Card.
Washington and Pennsylvania
Living donor protection legislation is also moving quickly through the Pennsylvania and Washington legislatures. Both states' bills have already passed out of their originating chambers and had committee hearings in the second chamber (meaning it passed out of the House and is now being heard in the Senate, or vice versa). AKF Ambassadors have been testifying with us during these bill hearings, and their powerful personal stories hit home for lawmakers like Pennsylvania State Representative Tarah Toohil, who is a living donor herself.
The bills would prohibit insurance companies from discriminating against people based on their status as an organ donor. Right now, only 15 states have anti-insurance discrimination laws to prohibit life, disability and long-term care insurers from discriminating against living organ donors by charging them higher premiums or denying them coverage altogether. By preventing discriminatory insurance practices, these bills would remove barriers to living donation and increase the supply of organs available for transplantation.
There are more than 93,000 people on the national kidney transplant waiting list, but only 23,644 people were able to get a kidney transplant in 2020. Of those transplants, just 5,234 came from living donors. We need to do whatever we can to increase the organ supply and encourage more living donations, and removing financial burdens for living donors can help us accomplish that.
Oregon and Colorado
Oregon's Kidney Disease Prevention and Education Task Force bill passed the House Health Committee unanimously. The task force would develop kidney disease education, awareness and prevention strategies and programs for Oregonians. If the bill passes, the task force will help curb the growing rate of kidney disease in the state, hopefully before the numbers reach a breaking point.
Colorado's Kidney Disease Education and Prevention Task Force bill passed out of the House Health & Insurance Committee. The task force would study the reasons for the rising incidence of kidney disease in the state and provide legislative recommendations for how to prevent and combat it. It is extremely important for more education and resources to be available for Coloradans, and this task force will enable the state to provide more assistance and expand outreach efforts. We are grateful for the support of Representatives Bradfield and Titone and are thrilled to see that the bill has moved to the House Appropriations Committee.
Another bill in Colorado — Pruitt's Law — would prohibit discrimination against potential organ transplant recipients based solely on their physical, developmental or intellectual disability. AKF believes that no one should be denied an organ transplant based on their disability status and that everyone should have the same access to care. We are happy to see this bill pass the House Health & Insurance Committee and will continue to support pieces of legislation that break down barriers for those in need of a transplant.
Resolutions and proclamations for Kidney Month
Kidney Month (March) and Donate Life Month (April) are busy times at AKF and for kidney legislation around the country! Eight states introduced kidney disease awareness resolutions to officially recognize the importance of these months. We are thrilled to see Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri and New York taking steps to increase awareness, promote the importance of early detection of kidney disease and empower AKF Ambassadors.
Ambassador Tamara Walker helped to get March designated as Kidney Disease Awareness Month in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, where she lives. The county's proclamation, signed by Mayor Kelly Girtz on March 25, encourages residents to ask their physicians to screen them for kidney disease.
There is much more to come this session, so stay tuned to this blog series for updates on all these bills and more. For now, learn how well your state protects living organ donors on our Report Card .
How can you help?
All these bills have a better chance of moving through the legislative process with your help! If you would like to contact your state elected officials about these bills or help with written or live testimony during bill hearings, please reach out to Melanie Lendnal, AKF's director of state policy & advocacy, at email@example.com.