Not only does a kidney donor have to have a “heart of gold” to go through the process of donating a kidney, they also have to go through rigorous health screening to be approved for donating a kidney, and only the healthiest people in the USA are approved. So why are they now facing challenges in obtaining high health scores when it comes to health and life insurance premiums post donation?
A recent study was done by Johns Hopkins researchers and published in the American Journal of Transplantation on this subject. The study found that a high proportion of kidney donors experienced difficulty changing or initiating insurance, particularly life insurance.
The study was led by Dorry Segev, M.D., Ph.D., M.H.S., an associate professor of surgery and epidemiology at The Johns Hopkins University who said that although “Living donors are some of the healthiest people in the United States. They’re heavily screened before they’re approved for donation and should be easily insurable,”. In spite of that fact he and his colleagues had heard from their patients that they faced troubles after donation from insurance companies.
These stories inspired Segev to initiate a survey to find more hard data on the subject.
The study surveyed 1,046 people who donated a kidney at The Johns Hopkins Hospital between 1970 and 2011.
Segev’s team found the following:
- Among 395 donors who tried to initiate or change health insurance after donation, 7 percent (27) said they faced problems. Some 15 were denied health insurance altogether, 12 were charged a higher premium and eight were told that donating a kidney was a pre-existing condition.
- Among 186 donors who tried to initiate or change life insurance after donation, 25 percent (46) reported problems: 23 were denied life insurance altogether, 27 were charged a higher premium and 17 were told that donating a kidney was a pre-existing condition.
Although Health Insurance providers had reportedly creating unnecessary burden and stress for kidney donors in the past, they are no longer allowed to refuse health coverage or raise premiums for kidney donors due to the terms of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Unfortunately these terms do not apply to Life Insurance companies.
Dr. Hassan N. Ibrahim, medical director of the Kidney Transplant Program at the University of Minnesota Medical School in Minneapolis said, “There is quite a bit of evidence that even living with only one kidney, donors are healthier and less likely to have kidney problems than the general public.” He claims that studies done in Sweden, Japan and the U.S. had found that kidney donors live as long as, if not longer than non-donors.
Ibrahim went on to say that although he suspects that even if only one percent of 5,000 donors per year actually have problems getting or changing insurance, it is concerning.
“There are about 100,000 people in the U.S. who have altruistically donated a kidney,” Segev says. “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.”
Steven Weisbart, chief economist at the Insurance Information Institute in New York responded to this report stating that since the study has left many factors unexplored. He says, “There’s nothing here about how long after donation the effort to change or buy life insurance took place. If it was a long time they are much older, and there could be many factors to their health.” He continued by saying, “The life insurance market is enormous and quite varied,” he said. Some companies may be concerned about the impact of going down to one kidney and might choose to reject an applicant, but another company might accept the same person without an increased premium. Kidney donors should shop around for life insurance.”
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