On January 20, 2021, Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Kamala D. Harris were sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States. Their ascension to the White House, amid the twin public health crises posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and system racism, provides new opportunities for the kidney community to collaborate and advance polices that will benefit people with kidney diseases and their families.
The Biden-Harris ticket campaigned on the need for the country to build back better, and the nation owes it to the 37 million Americans living with kidney diseases, especially those from communities of color who are disproportionately burdened, to focus on improving kidney health in America as it moves out of COVID-19.
ASN is encouraging the new administration to recognize, in all COVID-19–related decision-making, that Americans living with kidney disease are at unique risk for COVID-19 owing to their vulnerable condition, weakened immune systems, and the settings in which they receive care. In particular, kidney patients must be prioritized for access to COVID-19 vaccines and rapid post-market analysis to determine the safety of COVID-19 vaccines in transplant recipients.
The COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the public health epidemic of systemic racism, laying bare the deadly consequences of inaction, and making the need to address systemic racism through policy all the more urgent. ASN is emphasizing the clear opportunities to ensure that new and revised policies enacted by the Biden-Harris administration increase kidney health equity within the research and innovation ecosystem, across the entire kidney care continuum, and throughout the nation’s kidney health workforce. Read ASN’s complete recommendations to the Biden-Harris administration to address COVID-19 and increase health equity in the First 100 Days at www.asn-online.org/policy.
Federal investment in kidney research and innovation has long lagged behind the $130 billion annual Medicare kidney health expenditure. President Biden and Vice President Harris must halt this trend by supporting policies and programs aimed at reversing decades of stagnation in kidney care and fostering a robust research and innovation ecosystem. By investing in patient-directed and investigator-initiated research through visionary federal programs like the Kidney Precision Medicine Project and KidneyX, the new administration can catalyze scientific discovery and the development of—and patient access to—new kidney diagnostics, therapeutics, and devices.
Addressing the significant racial and ethnic disparities in therapy access and patient outcomes is at the center of ASN’s advocacy agenda. By placing the patient’s voice at the center of policy-making, the Biden-Harris administration can significantly improve the lives of patients with kidney diseases and increase patient choice in kidney care therapies and environments, such as increased access to telehealth, home dialysis, self-care dialysis, in-center dialysis, conservative care, and, crucially, transplant.
But while working to address the needs of people living with kidney diseases, policymakers cannot afford to forget the tens of thousands of kidney health care professionals who are dually tasked with treating their patients and battling COVID-19. It is crucial that the nation’s kidney health workforce accurately reflect the diversity of the population it serves in order to increase the likelihood that patients will have a higher-quality care experience. That is why ASN is advocating for policies that support a robust and diverse trainee pipeline and recognize the value that international medical graduates—who constitute half of America’s kidney health professionals—bring to Americans with kidney diseases.
ASN is leading the kidney community to assist the Biden-Harris administration in confronting both COVID-19 and systemic racism. ASN is collaborating with stakeholders from patient, professional, and provider organizations to improve the kidney health of all Americans by advancing patient-centered and evidence-based kidney health policies. Read further about these efforts in a community-wide letter supported by 22 organizations, accessible at www.asn-online.org/policy. Together, the kidney community can work with the Biden-Harris administration to build a better, more equitable future for kidney health.