ASN, AAKP to Advocate for Living Donor Protections during Kidney Health Advocacy Day

Zachary Kribs
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On Wednesday, April 14, advocates from the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) and ASN will meet with their members of Congress during the 9th Annual Kidney Health Advocacy Day and call for passage of the Living Donor Protection Act of 2021.

A longstanding advocacy priority of ASN and the broader kidney health community, the Living Donor Protection Act guarantees that living donors have access to life, disability, and long-term care insurance with full coverage and without higher premiums and codifies that the Family and Medical Leave Act protects the employment of living donors after taking time off to donate an organ.

Currently, as many as one in four living donors reports significant difficulty in obtaining life, disability, and long-term care insurance, and fear of a loss of employment after donating an organ is commonly expressed by living donors. The removal of these barriers to living donation is a critical first step to increasing the number of organs available for transplantation.

Furthermore, the removal of these barriers will also increase equity in transplantation. Black Americans are 50% less likely to receive a kidney from a living donor than White Americans, and research has consistently pointed to barriers to donation, such as insurability and job security, as factors leading to this disparity.

“Every day, I see firsthand the difference donated kidneys make in the lives of my patients,” said Roslyn B. Mannon, MD, FASN, ASN Policy and Advocacy Committee Chair. “Yet, currently, living donors face too many barriers to provide this gift of life at a time when donating a kidney is more important than ever: 12 Americans die every day while waiting for a kidney transplant. I applaud the sponsors of the Living Donor Protection Act for ensuring that the ability of living donors to obtain insurance and retain employment is no longer an obstacle to organ donation.”

The time is right to make this important change. In 2020, Congress passed the Comprehensive Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Transplant Patients Act, another longstanding kidney health policy priority, demonstrating bipartisan support within Congress for increasing patient access to transplantation. During the same time period, the Living Donor Protection Act gained 100 co-sponsors for legislation in the House and 26 co-sponsors in the Senate, clearing an unofficial threshold for demonstrating broad bipartisan support and opening new doors for its passage.

Advocates from AAKP and ASN will build on this momentum during Kidney Health Advocacy Day, highlighting the importance of kidney transplants for patient health, the need to increase the number of kidney transplants from living donors to reduce the organ shortage, and the imperative to increase equity in kidney health. “ASN is committed to increasing the number of kidneys available for transplant and increasing equity in the US transplant system,” said Susan E. Quaggin, MD, FASN, ASN President. “The Living Donor Protection Act is a critical first step to achieve these goals.”

The Living Donor Protection Act is led in the House by Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and in the Senate by sponsors and Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR). The legislation has broad support from the kidney health and transplant community.