2020’s Kidney Policy Advances Create Momentum for More

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The year 2020 was an incredibly difficult one for the world, the nation, and the kidney community. In facing significant and new challenges, the American Society of Nephrology (ASN) shifted policy priorities to reflect the changing environment while still advocating for kidney patients and the kidney care professionals treating them and conducting research on their behalf. Pivoting traditional in-person congressional office visits with the ASN Policy and Advocacy Committee and the ASN Quality Committee to virtual ones, ASN delivered key policy messages to influence both coronavirus infectious disease 2019 (COVID-19) stimulus packages and the annual appropriations process.

After months of negotiations among the House, Senate, and administration leadership, the fiscal year 2021 (FY21) appropriations bill and COVID-19 relief legislation were signed into law on December 27, 2020, avoiding a government shutdown.

The package included a number of ASN policy priorities, including the following:

  • ■ Lifetime immunosuppressive drug coverage: the entire immuno bill is estimated to save $400 million over 10 years. This is a long overdue and hard-won victory for the entire community on behalf of kidney patients.

  • ■ The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) received an increase of $37 million for FY21, a 1.7% increase that came as part of a total $1.25 billion increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) overall for FY21.

  • ■ KidneyX received $5 million for FY21, similar to the amount received in FY20, and funding to help launch additional prize competitions to catalyze innovation in kidney care, including the Artificial Kidney Prize.

  • ■ NIH also received an additional $1.25 billion for COVID-related funds to support “research and clinical trials related to long-term COVID-19” in addition to the funds for FY21.

  • ■ The National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD) received direction in report language from Congress in the bill that it has provided “sufficient funding for NIMHD to establish a comprehensive center initiative aimed at a wide variety of chronic diseases,” specifically naming kidney diseases as a priority area and instructing NIMHD to work with NIDDK, among other NIH institutes and centers.

  • ■ The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention received $2.5 million for kidney disease in the Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion program.

  • ■ The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) received an additional $250 million for COVID-related telehealth, along with an additional $7 billion for the FCC for broadband infrastructure.

ASN is appreciative of all the member volunteers and partner patient and health professional organizations that helped these policy successes come to fruition. ASN is now prepared to build off of the momentum closing out 2020 and continue to secure additional policy victories this year. The March 2021 issue of ASN Kidney News will include a detailed overview of ASN’s priorities for the new administration and new Congress.