Bi-partisan bill seeks to protect patients’ rights
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
An American who generously donates his kidney to help a patient in need often finds himself the victim of discrimination later on.
That shocking information was recently revealed by U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan), who said donors are often rebuffed when they try to take medical leave or purchase health insurance.
And that’s a shame, said Nadler, because organ donation not only saves lives, it also saves money.
“Every year, thousands of living Americans donate kidneys, livers and other organs to save the lives of family members, friends and complete strangers struggling with chronic, life-threatening illnesses. An organ donor’s decision to undergo these invasive procedures saves lives and it also saves money. Organ donation saves Medicare millions of dollars every year. It cuts health care costs as much as two-thirds by reducing the need for dialysis and other expensive medical interventions to treat chronic illnesses,” Nadler said in a statement that he and U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess jointly issued.
Nadler and Burgess (R-Texas) have introduced a bipartisan bill, the Living Donor Protection Act, that they said would help protect the rights of living organ donors.
The legislation is needed, Nadler said, because the federal Family and Medical Leave Act does not state that organ donors can take unpaid leave to recover from the donation procedure.
Nadler said a 2007 study in the American Journal of Transplantation found that as many as 11 percent of living organ donors have a hard time getting health insurance after their procedures because of discriminatory practices.
The Living Donor Protection Act would prohibit insurance companies from denying or limiting coverage for living organ donors. It would also ban insurance companies from charging organ donors a higher premium.
“Rather than putting roadblocks in the way of living organ donation, Congress should encourage more individuals to become living donors and protect the rights of those donors to receive the insurance and medical leave they need,” Nadler and Burgess stated.
Kidneys are the most common organs donated by living donors, according to the website donatelife.net.
The bill has support from numerous groups that advocate on behalf of organ transplants.
“The National Kidney Foundation commends Congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Michael Burgess for their leadership in expanding opportunities for living organ donation that will ultimately help reduce the national shortage of organs,” said Bruce Skyer, CEO of the National Kidney Foundation.
The National Kidney Foundation also issued a statement in support of the legislation. “The National Kidney Foundation is a longtime leader in organ donation and transplantation in the US and believes that in order to increase the national pool of organ donors, it is critical that living organ donors do not bear any unnecessary burdens or restrictions that would serve as barriers to donation,” the statement read.
“Living donors should not have to worry about or suffer financial loss as a result of their benevolence,” said Dr. David Reich, chairman of the legislative committee of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.