In the Press

Following kidney transplant, Texas senator pushes for living donor education

April 11, 2023

Spectrum News

By Dylan Scott

AUSTIN, Texas — “It was very life-changing, and I want to see if I can positively impact the lives of others as well,” state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-District 19, told Spectrum News 1 recently.

Battling a rare kidney disease for more than half his life, Hancock, like nearly 10,000 other Texans, lived and waited for a miracle.

“I’ve known for 31 years this day would come,” Hancock said. “Seven years ago, was told I was a year or two away from dialysis.”

Sen. Hancock recently introduced Senate Bill 1249, which will increase education on the living donor registry program across Texas. (Spectrum News 1/Dylan Scott)

When his health became dire last year, eight members of Hancock’s family stepped up and were tested as a possible match for a kidney transplant. His son-in-law, Greg Cox, proved to be the best fit for surgery and donated his kidney this past July.

“I think the fact that we can do that is pretty cool,” Cox said. “If you’re on the fence, and you’d like to do it, there’s plenty of people that need it. Honestly, I got more out of it than Kelly did.”

Turning his plight into public policy, Hancock filed Senate Bill 1249, a bill that was unanimously passed in the Senate to bring educational resources to the living organ donor registry, which started in Texas.

“Once they are knowledgeable about the opportunity that there is a calling to do that and if they feel led, we want to provide the information,” Hancock said.

According to Donate Life Texas, nearly 10,000 Texans are awaiting an organ transplant and up to 96% of donations can be met through living donors. (Spectrum News 1/Dylan Scott)

Besides registering at the DMV, this legislation will make donor information more readily available on state websites and platforms, a much-needed boost according to Donate Life Texas Executive Director Chad Carroll.

“I don’t think people in Texas are aware that they can become a living donor and how great the need is,” Carroll said. “We’re excited to update our education to include living donors as a viable solid option for those looking to save someone’s life.”

According to the organization, 96% of the state’s organ needs, which are almost all kidney and liver transplants, can be met through living participants.

“Hopefully we can improve lives through the marketing and educational process,” Hancock said. “Eventually the living list of donors grows where there isn’t a huge deficiency and need.”

Sen. Hancock and son-in-law Greg Cox shared their personal story during testimonials for SB 1249 at the State Capitol. (Courtesy: Sen. Hancock)

Sen. Kelly Hancock opens up about rare kidney disease, as he advocates for Texas bill to increase living organ donors

April 6, 2023

Texas Tribune

Hancock, a North Richland Hills Republican, was diagnosed at age 27 with a rare genetic kidney disease that occurs when the immunoglobulin A antibody builds up in the kidneys.

By James Barragán

For 30 years, Sen. Kelly Hancock kept his battle with a rare genetic kidney disease quiet.

But last July, he received a lifesaving kidney transplant from his son-in-law, and now Hancock wants more Texans to know that they too could save someone’s life by becoming a living organ donor.

To that end, Hancock has filed Senate Bill 1249 to create a state program that would educate the public about becoming a living organ donor.

“That’s why we’re bringing it to life,” Hancock said in an interview. “We have a chance to make a positive difference.”

The Senate approved the bill unanimously and it now heads to the House.

At driver’s license offices, the state already asks Texans if they want to donate their organs upon their death. But Hancock’s bill would require the state to also educate Texans about becoming donors while they live by posting information about how to register in the offices and on websites of the Texas Department for State Health Services and the Texas Department of Public Safety, which runs the state’s driver’s license offices.

Approximately 10,000 Texans are awaiting a lifesaving organ donation, and 85% of them are waiting for a kidney. Most people can live normal lives with just one healthy kidney, according to the National Kidney Foundation.

Hancock, a North Richland Hills Republican, was diagnosed at age 27 with a rare genetic kidney disease that occurs when the immunoglobulin A antibody builds up in the kidneys. That leads to inflammation, which can harm the organ’s ability to filter waste from blood.

The disease varies from person to person, with some eventually achieving remission and others experiencing kidney failure. No cure exists.

When he was diagnosed, doctors told Hancock his kidney would eventually give out. For three decades, he managed the disease with a strict diet and exercise regimen and tried to live as normal a life as possible. He’s run six marathons in his life and been an elected state official for the last 16 years, all while his kidney has been functioning at less than 50%.

Seven years ago, Hancock’s doctor told him he was a few years away from needing dialysis, a procedure that removes excess water and waste from the blood when kidneys can no longer do that naturally. (Usually, a patient will go on dialysis when they only have 10% to 15% of their kidney function left.) He shared the news with his family but otherwise doubled down on his strict diet and exercise routine to stave off dialysis a few more years.

“[It] was funny because everybody thought, golly, he’s really getting healthy, and it was kind of the opposite,” he said.

But during the last legislative session, Hancock, who tests his kidney’s function on a daily basis and drinks a gallon of water a day to keep his levels where they need to be, started realizing his kidney was giving out. He had difficulty putting his shoes on every day. When he did his regular testing with his doctor at the end of the legislative session, his doctor called him back almost immediately and told him his kidney’s function had dropped to unsustainable levels.

That Thanksgiving weekend, Hancock, now 59, told his family the news. Eight of his family members, including his wife, siblings and three adult children, got tested to see if they were matches for a kidney donation.

In the end, two of Hancock’s daughters and one son-in-law, Greg Cox, were matches for a kidney donation. Both of those daughters had recently given birth and Cox, who doctors said was the best match, offered to give his kidney to Hancock.

“I found out and just immediately thought, ‘Yeah, I was made to do this. This is why I’m here,’” said Cox, 35, who still tears up talking about his decision to give his kidney to his father-in-law. “It’s just one of those moments where, a moment of clarity and feeling like this is what God has for me.”

The two men put themselves through a slew of tests and appointments to prepare for the transplant. On July 13, the two underwent the procedure at Medical City Fort Worth and Hancock was cleared to return to normal activities by October.

Cox, who testified in support of the bill in a Senate committee last week, said he hopes the bill will normalize people signing up to be living donors. He said he gets two reactions when people learn he donated his kidney to his father-in-law: adoration or utter disbelief.

“These surgeries are very common. The outcomes are extremely good, especially if you’re younger and in relatively good health,” Cox said. “For some minor discomfort and minor inconvenience, a chance to save somebody’s life and to improve somebody’s life 180 degrees is absolutely worth it. I hope that the reaction to living kidney donation is less of a weighty thing to people.”

The discussion was weighty even for Hancock’s family. After Cox signed up to donate his kidney, Hancock would tell him if he got a kidney from a deceased person, he would take that instead.

“I would tell him, ‘I’m giving my kidney to somebody, so you might as well take it,’” Cox said.

Chad Carroll, executive director of Donate Life Texas, which manages the state’s organ and tissue donor registry, said he supports Hancock’s bill because it could make more people aware that they could save someone’s life through organ donation while they are alive.

“If we only leverage what we run in Donate Life Texas in terms of the deceased registry, we just won’t be as effective getting after that problem of saving Texans’ lives,” he said. “So we must leverage living donation as an option to save additional lives.”

The general public is familiar with organ donation upon death, for which 14 million Texans have registered, Carroll said, but many Texans don’t know they could donate an organ such as a kidney while they are still alive.

“What this bill does is allows us to update the way we communicate with Texans about living donation, give them information on the various options out there,” Carroll said.

Hancock and Cox are now both fully recovered, and save some changes to Hancock’s taste buds (he’s picked up a liking for coffee since the surgery that didn’t previously exist) the two men are in fine health.

In testimony before the Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved the bill unanimously, Hancock took some legislative privilege to thank his son-in-law for giving him his kidney.

“Just to sort of, have it on the record,” Hancock said in front of his Senate colleagues, “Greg, thank you. You did literally save my life.”

After kidney transplant, North TX lawmaker proposes living organ donor education program

March 29, 2023

Fort Worth Star Telegram

By Eleanor Dearman

When he learned his kidney was a match for his father-in-law, state Sen. Kelly Hancock, Greg Cox said he didn’t hesitate.

“I think the Lord has stuff for you in your life, and I think this is just one of those things,” Cox said, standing outside the Senate chamber at the Texas Capitol. “When I found out I was a match, I didn’t think twice.”

Cox in July donated the organ to Hancock, who has for years had a chronic kidney disease called igA nephropathy — Berger’s disease. Now, the North North Richland Hills Republican senator is working to educate Texans on becoming a living organ donor.

A Senate committee on Wednesday advanced a bill that would require the Texas Department of State Health Services to create a living organ donor education program to help people learn more about the need for living organ donors.

The program would include information about how to register as a potential living organ donor with a registry.

A program called the National Donate Life Living Donor Registry is currently under development, having completed its first pilot phase in October 2021 in Texas, with plans to grow it nationwide, according to Hancock’s office. It is primarily for kidney donations, but there are opportunities to donate parts of other organs, said Chad Carroll, executive director of Donate Life Texas.

If the bill passes, information about being a living organ donor would be posted online on the websites for DSHS and the Texas Department of Public Safety. Currently driver’s license applicants can register to be an organ donor after death.

Nationally, more than 100,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant, according to Donate Life America.

“Until you’ve gone through it, until you’ve had a family member go through it, you really don’t know how far we’ve come with surgery and healthcare,” said Hancock, who said he was close to having to go on dialysis before getting a kidney transplant.

Cox, who is an attorney founding principal at law and public affairs firm Clearfork Strategies, said he thinks it’s important to let people know they have an ability to save a life and help another person.

Hancock said he’s doing great since the surgery.

“There are things I’ll do the rest of my life: Do my vitals every day for the rest of my life. I’ll take medicine the rest of my life, but I also have my life,” he said, adding that going on dialysis would have totally changed things for him.

The legislation passed out of the Senate Health and Human Services committee 7-0.

Texas Sen. Kelly Hancock recovering after kidney transplant

July 13, 2022

Fort Worth Star Telegram

By Eleanor Dearman

Texas Sen. Kelly Hancock is recovering after a successful kidney transplant on Wednesday, according to his office.

The North Texas senator’s son-in-law, Greg Cox, whose kidney was a match for Hancock, was a volunteer donor. Cox and Hancock are expected to make a full and speedy recovery, Hancock’s office said in a news release.

Hancock has lived with a chronic kidney disease — igA nephropathy, also called Berger’s disease — for more than 30 years, NBC DFW reported after speaking to the senator before the surgery.

“Each of us faces unique challenges in life,” Hancock said in a statement. “Robin and I decided years ago that we wouldn’t let this disease slow us down, and I couldn’t be more grateful to her and the rest of our family for their constant love and support.”

Hancock, a Republican, represents state Senate District 9, which after redistricting covers much of north and east Tarrant County, including parts of Fort Worth.

TX Sen. Kelly Hancock Recovers After Receiving a Kidney from His Son-in-Law

July 13, 2022


North Richland Hills state senator has had a rare kidney disease for more than 30 years

By Julie Fine

Before Wednesday, few people knew State Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills) had been diagnosed with a rare kidney disease for more than three decades.

Thanks to a donation from his son-in-law, Hancock underwent a successful transplant Wednesday afternoon and both men are doing well in recovery.

Prior to the surgery, Hancock and his son-in-law spoke with NBC 5.

“I don’t look like that I have organs failing. I do. I have had one failing for a long time,” said Hancock, who is an energetic lawmaker and a marathon runner. “I have wanted to live a full life without people knowing, or feeling sorry for me, or whatever, in order to get to the point that I could say, that I could be here and say, ‘God is sufficient and I am good with it.’”

Hancock made a visit to his doctor 31 years ago after not feeling well while playing racquetball. Tests would reveal he had IgA nephropathy, also known as Berger’s disease.

The disease occurs when immunoglobulin A deposits build up in the kidneys, causing inflammation that damages kidney tissues. IgA is an antibody—a protein made by the immune system to protect the body from foreign substances such as bacteria or viruses, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

Moving forward, Hancock was regularly tested for kidney function, watched his diet and tried to stay as healthy as possible. Six years ago, he was told he would need a kidney within two years. He beat the clock, for years, until late last year when his doctor said he was at a point where he needed a new kidney.

“There is a threshold that you can’t get on the transplant list until you are bad, bad, bad, and so I had to be bad, bad, bad to get there, and he was like, ‘Alright, I need you to come in and test again,’ and that is when I was like, ‘OK, I am there,’” said Hancock.

Then it came to telling his family, which he did at Thanksgiving. At first, he tried to make light of it, but they all faced the reality.

“That is when I told them, I said, ‘Look, I was making light because that is what I do. That is how I deal with stuff.’ But the reality is I need a kidney and you know the only way really to do it is that I am going to have to be on dialysis for five to seven years to qualify for a deceased donor,” Hancock explained.

But his family was quick to get tested to see if they could make a donation to him. It turned out, it wasn’t a blood relative that was the best match.

“I got tested thinking of course I’ll be supportive. I’ll go get tested. There is no way this would work, thinking my wife would be the match, or somebody else,” said son-in-law Greg Cox. “You don’t get the opportunity to help somebody like this, and Kelly would do the same for anybody that he loved without thinking, without having to be asked, and so it’s neat to be able to do it.”

Through everything, the Hancocks have relied on faith and stayed positive.

While he has kept the news of his transplant to himself, for the most part, Hancock now said he wants to raise awareness.

Through this, he said, he has seen first-hand the need that is out there and that the healthier you are the lower you are on the list for a transplant and the longer you will be on dialysis because of greater demand than supply.

“I was blessed, incredibly fortunate to have a living donor — 2.5% of the people who have kidney transplants do it before going on dialysis,” said Hancock, adding “organ donation is very feasible, it is very doable, and I don’t think we promote it enough or talk about it enough and it is a very private issue, but we wanted to bring attention too. We can address these issues. We can address these needs. And people, there is a need.”

The recovery for Hancock and Cox isn’t easy and could take several months. But they are ready and hope their story will help others.

Hancock is serving in his third term in the Texas legislature. He is running against Democrat Gwenn Burud in November.

“As a fellow Texan, I am joined by my staff, volunteers and supporters as we keep Senator Hancock and his family in our hearts and minds,” Burud said in a statement Wednesday night.

Houston Chronicle: Texans off the hook for ‘surprise’ medical bills [Editorial]

August 6, 2019

Houston Chronicle

By The Editorial Board

It sounded like a big victory for Texas patients: A new state law protects them from sticker shock if they receive an unexpected medical bill from a doctor who wasn’t in their insurance provider network.

But the victory wasn’t as big as it seemed.

The law signed last month by Gov. Greg Abbott applies only to Texans who buy insurance policies regulated by the Texas Department of Insurance. Left out is the 40 percent of the Texas insurance market, including employee benefits programs self-funded by large companies, regulated by the federal government through the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

Texas’ new law takes effect in September. It was authored by state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, who has been trying to protect patients from surprise medical bills for 10 years. It was Hancock’s 2009 bill that created a mediation process to settle billing disputes between medical providers and patients whose insurance companies wouldn’t cover out-of-network charges.

Mediation since 2015 has saved Texans more than $42 million in health care costs not paid by their insurers, including $8 million last year alone, according to the insurance department. But despite outreach efforts, many patients never knew they were eligible for mediation. They instead scraped up the cash to pay any balance owed after their insurance company kicked in its obligated share.

That shouldn’t happen as often under the new law, which takes consumers out of the equation by replacing mediation between the patient and insurer with what Hancock calls “baseball arbitration,” where an intermediary with medical billing expertise settles the dispute.

“It forces both parties to be more realistic in setting actual charges and payments,” Hancock told the editorial board. “The settlement is based on whoever comes closest to what the arbitrator believes is the fair market price. Whoever is farther away from that number is going to lose.”

A companion bill that would have made arbitration available to self-funded insurance plans was abandoned during the last legislative session. Hancock explained that participation would have been voluntary since those plans follow ERISA rules instead of TDI regulations. “Hopefully, we will see Congress address the issue,” he said.

That may not happen. Hospitals are opposing a bill in the U.S. Senate they say amounts to price-setting. The legislation would require insurance companies to pay out-of-network doctors at a rate tied to in-network fees for a specific treatment or procedure. Doctors, hospitals, and other medical facilities would be banned from “balance billing” patients an amount above what they are paid by the insurer.

“In short, the federal government would bind doctors and hospitals to the terms of contracts they haven’t signed,” said Heritage Foundation fellow Doug Badger in a commentary for the Daily Signal. Badger said physicians have a right to set fees for their services. He said the better solution is to make sure patients know beforehand that they are seeing someone out-of-network.

That may sound reasonable, but not when the patient is in an emergency room or similar situation and has little option but to receive treatment then and there.

The success of Hancock’s legislation despite initial opposition by the Texas Medical Association is reason to believe Congress can find a similar solution for patients with federally regulated insurance policies. In fact, TMA President David Fleeger said the physicians group would help write the rules TDI will use for arbitration under the new statute.

It’s good to see Texas join the 25 states that already have laws protecting patients from unexpected medical bills. Now it’s time for Congress to extend that protection to more Americans. Even President Trump says he wants that to happen. He agrees that people shouldn’t open their mail to find a doctor’s bill jarring enough to make them sick.

The Dallas Morning News: We recommend Kelly Hancock for Texas Senate District 9

October 13, 2018

Dallas Morning News Editorial

It takes more than passion to be effective in the Texas Legislature. It also takes experience, a grasp of a broad range of issues, and the ability to anticipate what’s next. In the Texas Senate race to represent northeast Tarrant County, Democrat Gwenn Burud brings a deep passion for education, but incumbent Republican Kelly Hancock offers experience.

For Texas Senate District 9, we recommend Hancock, 54, based on his proven effectiveness. Hancock, who lives in North Richland Hills, is chair of four committees, including the key Senate Business and Commerce committee. He has also been in the fray on a number of important issue, such as transportation, school funding and safety.

Burud, 50, is a deaf education teacher and says her top concern is school funding in Texas and her No. 2 priority is healthcare. But she offers few specific solutions that the Legislature could enact next year. We would be more enthusiastic about Burud, who lives in Colleyville, cutting her teeth in a lower office, where she could serve Texas with her intelligence and enthusiasm.

Hancock does offer specifics. On school funding, he aims to reduce the property tax burden while prioritizing school funding. He says schools don’t necessarily need more money, but to improve student outcomes they should prioritize teacher pay. “I was on the school board for 13 years, and we always seemed to make it work under the existing funding system,” he said.

He also offered an intriguing idea: Collect the property taxes paid by power generation plants into a state school fund, rather than local school funds. Power plants are generally in rural areas where school funding needs are relatively small, and they pay big property taxes out of revenue that comes from all Texans who use electricity.

Hancock’s response to school safety concerns is to arm administrators, and he helped write the school marshal bill that passed the Legislature in 2013. He is also a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, where he has pushed for measures to relieve traffic congestion in North Texas.

Where we differ from Hancock is in his support of the bathroom bill last session and the Texas voter ID law.

But overall, Hancock is the better choice.

Ready to vote?

Part of a series of Dallas Morning News recommendations in the Nov. 6 general election.

Voter Guide: Compare candidates’ answers to questionnaires tailored to their contest.

Recommendations: List of our recommendations to date.

Early voting starts: Oct. 22

Election Day: Nov. 6

For more information:

Collin County 1-800-687-8546

Dallas County 214-819-6300

Denton County 940-349-3200

Ellis County 972-825-5195

Kaufman County 972-932-0298

Rockwall County 972-204-6200

Tarrant County 817-831-8683

For more help, including how to check your registration status, contact the Texas secretary of state at 800-252-8683 or visit

Texas eyes added protections for your digital data

August 28, 2018


By Wes Rapaport

AUSTIN (Nexstar) — When you pass away, someone takes control of your digital data. You have partial control over who ends up with the keys to your digital castle. Texas lawmakers studied data access for people who have died, reviewing digital privacy laws on the books and exploring additional options.

“Our lives are getting more digitalized, not less so,” estate and business succession attorney Harry Wolff told a panel of Texas state senators on Tuesday.

Ben Bentzin is a marketing lecturer at the McCombs Business School at the University of Texas at Austin. He has designated each of his digital accounts to one of his children for when he passes away. He wants to make sure his affairs are in order.

“Upon my death, one of my children will receive a notification that they have been designated as my successor, and they will be able to take over at that point,” Bentzin said.

“All the stuff that we used to put on paper and store in boxes and filing cabinets is the stuff we put on digital assets now, and your Google account, your Facebook account, your Microsoft account stores lots of important information that your family will need on your passing,” Bentzin said.

Bentzin talks about preserving digital assets with his students.

“If you don’t take care of those assets and they are not going to be available to your family members, and you don’t want them to just go away,” Bentzin said.

At Tuesday’s hearing, state senator Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, recognized that digital privacy needs to be explored further in Texas, calling it “Something we have to learn.”

Last year, lawmakers passed SB 1193, which gives trustees power to manage digital assets just as they would physical ones. It also covers liability for custodians of electronic accounts who make decisions in an effort to honor the wishes of the original user’s privacy.

“There’s so much data and no one really knows… what to do with it at this point,” social media agency executive Kristen Sussman said. She is CEO of Austin-based Social Distillery. Sussman said digital data access has become a global issue that needs regulation.

“There’s no walls on the internet that separate us,” Sussman mentioned.

“We don’t really know if it should be federally mandated, whether it should be at the state level, whether it should be pushed for by Facebook by Google or the companies that own all of this data,” Sussman explained.

Lawmakers also addressed social media privacy in the workforce and for students.

“It’s a huge gray area of the law,” Bentzin stated. “In surveys, over half of employers say they consider social media in the hiring process, and yet it’s a mine field for employers also because in looking at social media they may wind up being exposed to content that may be illegal for them to consider in the hiring process.”

“You have in your digital assets an opportunity to manage who has access while you are living and when you die, and it’s important that you set that matches your wishes,” Bentzin said.

Experts suggested searching within each digital account for information on how to turn it over in case of death. Those who are not as tech-savvy could hire a probate lawyer to assist.

Sign Up for Updates

Endorse Kelly

Take Action