By Troy Zimmerman, Vice President of Government Relations
As we all reflect upon what to be grateful for in the New Year, we at the National Kidney Foundation are grateful for YOU! Thanks to your support throughout the year, we’ve achieved so much to help our kidney patient community. Without the support you have given us by meeting with legislators, writing and tweeting them, and spreading the word about efforts to improve kidney disease policies, none of this would have been possible.
Thanks to your messages and meetings with legislators at national and local levels, we’ve accomplished a lot in 2018. Here are ten of those achievements:
- Nearly 90 co-sponsors for the Living Donor Protection Act (H.R. 1270) in the U.S. House of Representatives, more than twice as many as the previous Congress;
- We collaborated with Rep. Herrera Beutler (R-WA) to secure a U.S. Department of Labor opinion letter clarifying that living organ donation is included in Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits. Therefore, anybody who is eligible for FMLA can donate a kidney without the fear of losing their job;
- We successfully advocated for the passage of versions of the Living Donor Protection Act in Idaho and New York;
- We advocated for the passage or defense of state laws offering tax credits and deductions for expenses related to living organ donation and for companies offering paid leave to living organ donors in Arkansas, Maryland and Colorado;
- Supported legislation, signed by the President, to improve our veterans’ access to transplants;
- Hosted approximately 100 kidney patient advocates from five organizations in Washington, DC for 5th Annual Kidney Patient Summit. Patients, living donors and their families educated Congress about their stories and needed changes to improve kidney health and patients’ lives;
- Sent more than 18,000 letters and tweets to Congress and state legislatures. These include messages supporting the Living Donor Protection Act (H.R. 1270), to promote early detection and treatment (H.R. 3867), and federal funding for CKD research and programs;
- Collaborated with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Million Hearts Initiative to integrate evidence-based best practices for improving early detection and treatment of CKD into efforts to improve hypertension treatment;
- Grew our advocate network to nearly 122,000 people;
- Led efforts to protect dialysis patient access to care in California by defeating Proposition 8, leading to 60% of Californians to vote against this initiative;
With the New Year comes a new Congress and new state legislatures. Did you know that nearly a quarter of Congress and state legislators are new? The vast majority of them have limited knowledge of kidney disease and its impact on 30 million Americans, like you and your loved ones. This is why we will continue to need your help in 2019.
We continue to need your help in recruiting your friends and family to become advocates and support critical policy initiatives that directly affect you, but also to tell us how kidney disease has impacted your life. In January, we will be asking you to write your legislators, new and old alike, to educate them about kidney disease and tell them to support better policies for the kidney community.
I look forward to working with you to accomplish even greater victories for kidney patients, living organ donors and their families in 2019!