ASN and AAKP Advocates Urge Congress to Support Kidney Health

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This March, advocates from ASN and the American Association of Kidney Patients (AAKP) headed to Capitol Hill as part of Kidney Health Advocacy Day (KHAD) to advocate for policies to increase support and funding for kidney health programs. Currently in the middle of its annual funding process, officially known as appropriations, for fiscal year 2024 (FY24), it is imperative for members of Congress to hear how increasing funding for kidney health innovation and care for American service members living with kidney diseases is crucial for improving the care for the 37 million Americans living with kidney diseases. During KHAD, advocates from AAKP and ASN raised two key requests of Congress:

  • Accelerate innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases by increasing funding for Kidney Innovation Accelerator (KidneyX).

  • Support American services members with kidney diseases by increasing funding for the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) National Kidney Program and by increasing funding for the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs.

KidneyX, a public-private accelerator between ASN and the Department of Health and Human Services, aims to accelerate innovation in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of kidney diseases through a series of prize competitions. To date, KidneyX has awarded 67 prizes across five competitions for solutions ranging from dialysis-accessible clothing to groundbreaking prototypes of artificial kidney and xenotransplant technology.

ASN committed the first $25 million to KidneyX, and Congress has appropriated $5 million each year for KidneyX since its first Congressional appropriation in 2019, now totaling $20 million. During KHAD, advocates from AAKP and ASN urged Congress to provide KidneyX $25 million in the FY24 appropriations bill to expand the number of innovators it supports and accelerate the development of transformative technologies, particularly the world's first artificial kidney.

Advocates also requested that Congress support American service members and veterans living with kidney diseases. Advocates requested increased funding for the VHA Kidney Program to ensure its mission to “improve the quality and consistency of healthcare services delivered to veterans with kidney disease nationwide” (1). Federal funding would also support VA health care facilities that offer outpatient dialysis care to service members in 70 locations (2). Additionally, advocates requested increased funding for the Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, which, among other hallmarks, supports “groundbreaking research; the next generation of researchers and established scientists; and research development, including basic, translational, and clinical research” (3). Currently, the program funds extensive research of polycystic kidney disease and other rare kidney diseases.

Lastly, with the recent announcement of the Public Health Emergency (PHE) expiring on May 11, 2023, it is essential that Congress understands the implications of this decision for individuals who are immunocompromised and immunosuppressed and ensure they retain access to life-saving care. Patients with kidney diseases and kidney failure are at the highest risk of contracting and experiencing severe outcomes, such as death, from COVID-19. Furthermore, patients with kidney transplants must take immune-suppressing medication, making vaccines less effective and this population particularly vulnerable to severe outcomes from COVID-19. Ending the PHE will have a significant impact on the lives of these patients by abruptly removing funding for testing and diagnostic tools and potentially risking gaps in the delivery of life or death therapies, particularly antivirals such as nirmatrelvir and ritonavir—the only COVID-19 therapeutics effective in most transplant recipients. ASN and AAKP advocates raised these implications with policymakers and the need to continue to provide people with kidney diseases and kidney failure access to valuable care.

ASN will continue advocating for these key priorities throughout the year and encourages kidney health professionals and patients with kidney diseases to amplify these requests through ASN's Legislative Action Center (