Donating a kidney is a selfless act to save a life. However, it seems that denial of insurance for future healthcare is the reward donors get for this noble deed. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health in Baltimore, MD have found that healthy living kidney donors often run into trouble when seeking or changing health or life insurance after the surgery. While many reported they were charged a higher premium, some said they were denied coverage totally.
The transplant recipient’s insurance will cover the donor’s general expenses such as the evaluation, surgery, and limited follow-up tests and medical appointments. The problem is that insurers tend to see the kidney donor as high-risk customers even though there is little evidence to suggest that they face any additional health risks or a shorter life span after live kidney donation.
Reported online in the American Journal of Transplantation, the recent study was based on a survey of 1,046 people who donated a kidney between 1970 and 2011. The researchers asked the participants whether they had started or changed health or life insurance in the years after their donation. They were also asked about the problems faced in the process. Of the 395 donors who changed or initiated health insurance after donation
- 27 (7%) reported having some difficulty
- 15 were denied health insurance and
- 12 were charged a higher premium
- 8 were told they had a pre-existing condition because they were kidney donors
Among 186 donors who changed or applied for life insurance after the donation
- 46 (25%) had similar difficulties
- 23 of these people were denied life insurance altogether
- 27 were charged a higher premium
- 17 were told their donor status meant they had a pre-existing condition
Delays and added paperwork were other insurance-related difficulties that the donors faced. In addition, the researchers found that men and donors above the age of 40 were more likely to report having difficulty changing or initiating life insurance.
Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), health insurance companies cannot refuse to provide health coverage to living kidney donors or charge them a higher rate. However, ACA does not apply to life insurance and the study showed that it was a more of a problem compared to health insurance.
Dorry Segev, MD, PhD, MHS, study leader and associate professor of surgery and epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University says, “There are about 100,000 people in the U.S. who have altruistically donated a kidney. Insurance companies should make a strong effort on behalf of people who perform this selfless act to make sure that they’re well taken care of”.
Similar cases of kidney donors reporting trouble obtaining insurance came to light in 2012. Even after two years, the condition has not changed. This is likely to lead to a situation where eligible donors would hesitate to donate a kidney because of potential insurance problems.