By Kevin Longino, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation
On Thursday, February 25th, 2016, the Living Donor Protection Act (H.R. 4616/S.2584), was introduced by Representative Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Representative Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX) in the House of Representatives, and Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in the Senate. This bill will protect living organ donors and remove barriers to donation by prohibiting insurance companies from denying or limiting life, disability and long term care insurance to living donors, and from charging higher premiums. The bill also clarifies that living organ donors may use time granted through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to recover from donation.
Kidneys can be donated by a living individual in good health. The wait list for a kidney transplant is long and many individuals will die before ever receiving a kidney transplant. There are over 100,000 people waiting to receive a kidney transplant. In 2014, 17,108 kidney transplants were performed, one-third of which were made possible by living donors. Living donors make a substantial contribution to increasing the number of transplants performed each year.
Fear of lack of insurance protection, higher premiums, and loss of job are barriers for someone who wants to donate an organ. Many individuals have experienced higher premiums or denial of coverage insurance based solely on their status as a living organ donor. Additionally, while some employers allow individuals to take leave from work to donate an organ –there is no federal protection to ensure that organ donors do not lose their jobs when they take time off of work for the surgery and recovery.
The risks of living kidney donation are minimal and while long-term effects on donors need further study, most kidney donors go on to live normal healthy lives after organ donation. There is no medical evidence to suggest that insurance companies are at increased financial risk for covering living donors and therefore companies should not charge higher premiums nor deny or limit coverage just because the individual donated an organ.
If you would like to support the Living Donor Protection Act (H.R. 4616/S.2584), please contact your Representative and Senators. Those who are altruistic enough to donate a kidney to save another person’s life should not be discriminated and penalized by insurers or fear loss of their jobs.