Each April, our nation observes Donate Life Month – a chance to celebrate, thank and advocate for organ donors across the country. As there are far more people waiting on the transplant list (more than 100,000) than there are donors, chronic disease patients around the U.S. benefit especially from those donors who are still alive.
Bluntly put, thousands of Americans need new organs, and they can’t wait for potential donors to pass away. We need more donors.
That’s why at the Chronic Disease Coalition, one of our top policy priorities – both in the states and in Congress – is to pass living organ donor protections. We must do all we can to encourage this selfless gift. For many chronic disease patients, a transplant is their only chance at a healthy life.
Every year, 6,000 Americans become living donors of kidneys, livers, and other organs to save the lives of family members, friends, colleagues and even complete strangers. Yet another name is added to the transplant waitlist every 10 minutes. Discriminatory insurance policy is dissuading people from participating in this crucial assistance.
Many barriers exist for potential donors. In addition to rising insurance rates, they also face risk of retaliation at work, preemptive limits on the donation itself, soaring costs and a lifetime of health care questions.
Fortunately, though, dozens of states take steps every year to alleviate some of those challenges for potential donors, their recipients and their families.
Legislators from both parties regularly introduce bills that often include:
- Anti-insurance discrimination
- Job-protected leave from private and public employers
- Tax credits for employers who provide paid leave
- Direct reimbursements, tax credits or tax deductions for donors
- Paid leave
- Extended family medical leave
Some states have a few of these laws on the books, others have none.
Often, the financial uncertainty – both from lost wages and high health care costs – is a bigger obstacle to living organ donation than the potential health risks (which are, actually, very low).
Peter Yung, a kidney donor from California, puts it this way: “While I was fortunate to have a relatively smooth procedure and recovery, [donor protections] would have provided me with financial stability at a time when my I really needed it.”
So, now that we’re in the full swing of Donate Life Month, let’s recommit to fighting for living organ donor protections nationwide. There are a number of opportunities to make your voice heard on legislation currently under consideration in Congress and in the states.
Do you know someone who received an organ transplant, or needs one? Have you donated an organ before? Share your story today and help us elevate the patient voice in these critical policymaking discussions.
Check out our one-pager on living donor protections HERE.