Sometimes the most damaging forms of patient discrimination by health insurance companies target the people trying to help patients in need, rather than targeting the patients themselves. Such is the case with many policies dealing with live organ donors.
For many patients with chronic illnesses, an organ transplant is their best chance of regaining their health and independence, and a live organ donation increases the chances of that happening. Having a living donor at the ready prevents a patient from being stuck on a large and growing national waiting list and allows the patient to plan the best time to undergo transplant surgery. There are additional medical benefits as well: Live organs function immediately, as opposed to organs from cadavers that might take a few days or weeks to begin working as desired. As a result, patients who receive an organ such as a kidney from a living donor have far better chances of survival.
However, a number of restrictions make it more difficult for those willing to donate their organs. A major yet largely unrecognized issue for aspiring organ donors is their ability to get time off from work and to access the care they’d need if volunteering to undergo the operation.
Because the operation is an elective procedure for the person donating the organ, these compassionate souls often are denied medical leave and disability compensation. Too often they are charged a higher life insurance rate as well. These factors discourage people from being willing to donate, virtually ensuring that many transplant candidates will go without an organ, fueling those ever-growing transplant lists.
The National Kidney Foundation is seeking to ease some of these burdens with the Living Donor Protection Act. Introduced in February of this year in both houses of Congress, this bill would ensure that insurance policies cover those who choose to give the gift of life to their friends and family. It also expands the protections offered to them in the workplace when it comes to sick time and medical leave.
The National Kidney Foundation has set up a number of tools to help patients and concerned citizens alike make their voices heard on this bill. You can sign their petition here, and contact your legislator about the merits of the bill here.