New Illinois law to help save lives by removing barriers to kidney transplants

Updated 7/21/2021 7:15 PM

Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed Medicaid legislation into law July 6 that immediately opens Medicaid eligibility to uninsured state residents in need of kidney transplants -- providing them equitable access to lifesaving surgeries.

Praising the passage and the governor's signature of Senate Bill 2294 are Illinois organ donation and health equity advocates including Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network officials, Illinois Transplant Fund leadership, Rep. Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero) and Sen. Omar Aquino (D-Chicago).


"Today's action will save lives by creating equitable access to health care and removing barriers that prevent Illinois residents from receiving the kidney transplants they so desperately need," Hernandez said. "Illinois now provides these patients a fair chance at receiving transplants and returning to productive lives with their families and in their communities."

Patients who need transplants must provide proof of long-term access to post-transplant medications and follow-up care that will preserve the transplanted organ.

As a result, patients unable to pay insurance premiums may never be listed to receive a transplant.

The new program will provide the needed coverage throughout the state, thus ensuring access to kidney transplant for these members of our community.

As patients receive transplants, Illinois will save money as well. Patients with renal disease must rely on life-sustaining kidney dialysis. The Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services' Chronic Renal Disease Program covers dialysis costs for under- or uninsured patients who qualify. Each patient who receives a transplant means one less patient in need of expensive dialysis.

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Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network, the organization that coordinates organ donation in Illinois and northwest Indiana, established the Illinois Transplant Fund to help cover the insurance premium gap for such patients. Since 2015, the fund has successfully enabled more than 200 patients to receive lifesaving transplants.

"Illinois is now a leader in making access to transplantation a universal health benefit as well as continually working to increase organ and tissue donation to save and heal people in need," said Gift of Hope President/CEO Harry Wilkins, M.D.

Kevin Cmunt, executive director of the Illinois Transplant Fund, said, "We are so grateful to Rep. Hernandez, Sen. Aquino and all of the organizations and individuals who have advocated for this legislation to provide lifesaving health care access for Illinoisans in need of transplants."

About the Illinois Transplant Fund

The Illinois Transplant Fund is 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization established through Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network in 2015 to provide equitable access to lifesaving organ transplants for Illinois patients unable to afford post-transplant medications as a condition of eligibility for joining the national transplant waiting list. It is funded entirely through charitable contributions to eliminate lack of health insurance coverage for medications and care as a barrier to transplant surgery. For more information, visit

About Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network

Gift of Hope is the nonprofit organ procurement organization that coordinates organ and tissue donation and provides public education on donation in Illinois and northwest Indiana. As one of 58 organ procurement organizations that make up the nation's donation system, it works with 180 hospitals and serve 12 million people in the donation service area. Since 1986, their work has saved the lives of more than 23,000 organ transplant recipients and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands of tissue transplant recipients. For more information, visit

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