By Troy Zimmerman, Vice President for Government Relations
Our 6th Annual Kidney Patient Summit is poised to be our most successful advocacy day yet. With more than 100 advocates visiting more than 180 legislators’ offices on Capitol Hill sharing stories and priorities, I have no doubt that we moved the needle on promoting our legislative priorities. Last year, about two dozen legislators became co-sponsors of our legislation immediately after the Summit. In the week since March 5th, we have already had 12 new Representatives and a Senator become co-sponsors of the Living Donor Protection Act because of our advocates.
Thank you to our advocates who took time off work and school, time away from their families, and those who walked themselves to exhaustion to convince as many legislators as possible about the need to support better policies for kidney patients and living organ donors. I hope that you were also able to make show your support for their hard work by writing and tweeting your legislators that they need to support passage of the recently introduced Living Donor Protection Act (H.R. 1224/S. 511), legislation to extend Medicare immunosuppressive medication coverage indefinitely; and increased appropriations funding for kidney disease programs and research.
As Congressman Mullin (R-OK) said last year, “Personal stories really make a difference. I want to thank you for coming here and sharing yours,” said Rep. Mullin. “You sometimes come to the Hill and you leave thinking, ‘What did I really do except waste time?’ But you didn’t because you touched a lot of people’s hearts. You make my job much easier.”
I also want to thank our special guests this year. A special thank you to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Azar for joining us on Monday to inspire our advocates and talk about the importance of reforming kidney disease policy. We were proud that he chose our Summit as the place to tell the kidney community about HHS’ goal of changing the Medicare reimbursement payment methods to encourage a shift towards home dialysis and kidney transplants for end stage renal disease (ESRD) patients. He discussed how HHS is working to achieve better and more cost-effective ways to deliver dialysis to people in times of emergencies, such as natural disasters. He also spoke about the importance of programs such as the National Living Donor Assistance Center (NLDAC) program and the KidneyX innovation program that are helping to meet the needs of the kidney community.
Thank you to Angelica Hale, NKF’s Kid Ambassador and kidney transplant recipient, and her family for joining us again this year. We were proud to see the difference she made in her meetings with members of Congress and appreciated that she was able to join us for the Congressional Reception again. Like 2018, our advocates were thrilled and amazed by her performance and clamored to have the opportunity to meet her! Finally, I want to thank a long-time Kidney Advocacy Committee member and 2018’s Miss New York, Rahmeka Cox. Joined at the Summit by her mother and fellow advocate, Andrea, they met with more than a dozen legislators and their staff.
I hope that what our advocates did here will convince you to become empowered as well and become an advocate for kidney patients, living organ donors, and their caregivers too. Email me at NKFadvocacy@kidney.org so that we can talk to you about different ways that you can make a difference too.
Do you want to learn more about the Summit? Visit the Summit’s website and @NKF_advocacy on twitter to learn more about the event, view legislative materials, see photos from this year, or write your legislators.