Q&A with ASN's Policy Team on Current Advocacy During COVID-19

Health professionals are facing a barrage of unexpected challenges when caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. Addressing these challenges often requires sustained effort by policy experts, who make the case to government and regulatory agencies when urgent, sometimes unprecedented changes, must be enacted to provide the best possible care. Members of the ASN policy team have successfully advocated for a number of key changes during this crisis. Ryan Murray, ASN Senior Policy Specialist, provides an update. 

Q: Ryan, ASN has been focusing its efforts in a variety of areas related to improving care for kidney patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. What has been top of the list for your team this week?

Our entire health care system is working to keep patients safe by avoiding contact with other patients and health professionals to minimize the spread of the virus and flatten the curve. This week, ASN wrote a letter urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to immediately halt all in-person infection control surveys/inspections for the duration of the public health emergency.

ASN has also helped the government prioritize telehealth, joining 42 other Council of Medical Specialty Societies members to call on CMS to establish temporary payment parity for telephone visits with patients during the pandemic.

Finally, we learned some health systems and state governments are considering crisis-management policies that would deprive certain categories of patients — including Americans with kidney failure — of interventions such as ventilators during this public health emergency. ASN and the National Kidney Foundation urged the National Governors Association and the National Conference of State Legislatures to ensure state and local hospital systems treat each patient as an individual and that treatment reflects each patient’s unique medical circumstances.

Q: Please tell us briefly what you all will be working on over the next week, and the importance of those topics now.

While COVID-19 is presenting an immediate threat, we are looking beyond the current pandemic to prepare for thenext outbreak. As a nation, we need to identify pathophysiology, modes of transmission and risk factors of COVID-19 to prepare for the emergence of a new threat in the future.

We’re hoping to secure emergency supplemental funding for basic and clinical research at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Funding (a total of $100M) as well as investment in innovative product development through KidneyX.

Finally, we are also working with CMS on better transportation for COVID-19 positive patients, given the critical need to be able to discharge dialysis patients from acute care hospitals with the ability to get to dialysis. We want to reduce the risk that a COVID-19 positive dialysis patient will be admitted to the hospital solely because they cannot travel to and from dialysis. We have put this on the agenda of key members of Congress as well, to provide the most safe and efficient care possible to dialysis patients.

Learn more about key changes that have helped improve kidney care during this pandemic.