By Dave Oberembt, NKF Kidney Advocacy Committee member
Approximately a year and half ago I was fortunate enough to receive a second chance on life and received a donor kidney. I have a background in politics and have wanted to use some of my experience to give back to the kidney community. The National Kidney Foundation allowed me an amazing opportunity to get involved as a member of the Kidney Advocacy Committee.
In Arkansas, I have been following a state legislative tax reform committee. I tracked the committee mostly for personal and professional interest, I never dreamt kidney policy would be involved. While reading an article recapping a recent hearing, I was surprised to see a tax deduction for organ donors was on the list of deductions being considered for elimination.
The first thing I did was email Andrew Fullerton in the Government Relations office at National Kidney Foundation to notify him of the development. Before I dived into the details of the tax deduction, I began to think about what groups or organizations would ally with us in supporting this tax deduction. I reached out to the transplant hospital in Arkansas and made sure they were aware. I also reached out to Arkansas Regional Organ Recovery Agency. The National Kidney Foundation’s local office also reached out to other kidney disease organizations in Arkansas. As these conversations were going on, the National Kidney Foundation sent an action alert to kidney disease activists in Arkansas to ask them to write their state legislators.
Andrew Fullerton already had information about the tax deduction on file. The National Kidney Foundation was able to quickly give statistics on living organ donation and kidney disease’s impact on Arkansas. I began spending my days at the capital trying to track downs members of the committee.
I spoke with one state senator, told her my story and my concerns about the possible elimination of the tax deduction. She agreed and told me that she was a kidney donor herself! Another influential member of the Legislature revealed his wife was kidney donor! I spoke with a few other members of the committee and most seemed supportive of keeping the tax deduction. It is amazing what you learn while advocating for kidney issues.
In the end, the members with personal connections to kidney donations were the most vocal supporters of the tax. After a very brief discussion the committee voted to keep the tax deduction in place! My biggest takeaway from this experience is the power of initiating conversations about kidney issues and how it can lead to connections and experiences that you would never expect. I hope this experience will lead to the implementation of more policies that will benefit kidney patients and donors here in Arkansas.
If you want to join me in a promoting future policy changes in Arkansas, or nationally, please sign up to become an advocate!