NKF Applauds Legislation to Protect Living Organ Donors

Washington, D.C., – March 1, 2021 — Living organ donors can suffer job losses, denial of insurance coverage, and significantly higher health-insurance premiums after giving the gift of life, but four bipartisan Members of Congress have come together to change that by introducing The Living Donor Protection Act of 2021 (LDPA), S. 377 and H.R. 1255.

“We applaud Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Congressman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) for joining together to reintroduce the Living Donor Protection Act (LPDA), which will help advance kidney transplantation and remove critical barriers to organ donation,” said Kevin Longino, CEO, National Kidney Foundation and a kidney transplant patient. 

Specifically, the Living Donor Protection Act of 2021 will protect living organ donors and promote organ donation in three easy, low-cost ways: 

  • Prohibits life, disability, and long-term care insurance companies from denying or limiting coverage and from charging higher premiums for living organ donors; 
  • Amends the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to specifically include living organ donation as a serious health condition for private and civil service employees, and;
  • Directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to update their materials on live organ donation to reflect these new protections and encourage more individuals to consider donating an organ.

Every day, 17 patients die on the transplant waitlist, 12 die waiting for a kidney. Of the over 100,000 patients on the waitlist, only 22,817 received a kidney transplant in 2020. Patients wait an average of 3-5 years for a kidney transplant, but in some states the wait can be as long as 10 years. The availability of living donors is crucial to the survival of many kidney patients. Living donation was responsible for a total of 5,726 transplants in 2020, a decrease of 22.6 percent over the record of 7,397 living donor transplants set in 2019. Living organ donation not only saves lives, it saves money. Each year, Medicare alone spends approximately $89,000 per dialysis patient and less than half, $35,000, for a transplant patient.

Quotes from Members of Congress

“There are few acts more selfless than donating an organ to someone else. To donate an organ is to save someone’s life—those who make that sacrifice should be able to do so without facing needless roadblocks or insurance discrimination. Yet, with insurance companies charging living organ donors higher premiums or refusing them coverage altogether, it can often feel economically impossible to donate an organ,” said Rep. Nadler. “The Living Donor Protection Act, which I’m proud to sponsor alongside Rep. Hererra Beutler and Senators Gillibrand and Cotton, seeks to knock down those roadblocks and provide selfless donors with the certainty they deserve.”

“The Living Donor Protection Act would encourage more organ donors to step forward by protecting them from denial of insurance coverage, higher health-insurance premiums, and job loss. Not only do living organ donors save lives, but these transplants have better patient outcomes and are more cost-effective for the Medicare system,” saidSenator Cotton.

“I appreciate NKF’s longstanding work on behalf of living donors and am happy to work with them and bipartisan colleagues in the House and Senator Cotton to sponsor the Living Donor Protection Act,” said Senator Gillibrand. “There are far too many people who have to wait far too long to receive a life-saving organ transplant. The bipartisan Living Donor Protection Act would help ensure that the individuals who are willing to save someone's life through an organ donation can do so without facing insurance discrimination or losing their job as they recover from their generous act. I urge all my colleagues to cosponsor the Living Donor Protect Act and help us pass this bill this Congress.

“We lose a dozen American lives each day because folks are forced to wait too long for kidney transplants. But there’s hope here; there’s action Congress can take to help get more people this life-saving treatment before it’s too late. I’m proud to help reintroduce the Living Donor Protection Act that will protect living organ donors and remove barriers for those waiting in a long line to receive a transplant. I’m going to continue championing common-sense, bipartisan solutions that seek to match life-saving organs with the thousands of Americans who desperately need them.” – Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler

Quote from the American Council of Life Insurers

“The Living Donor Protection Act makes certain someone is not denied access to life, disability or long-term care insurance coverage solely because of their selfless act to be a living organ donor,” said American Council of Life Insurers President and CEO Susan Neely. “America's life insurers have long been committed to providing access to financial security for all Americans, regardless of where or how they work, their life stage, or the economic status of their household. That is why we strongly support this bill and hope it will help more people choose to save a life through organ donation.” 

The National Kidney Foundation encourages the public to email their legislators regarding the LDPA, and also join the conversation on social media by using the hashtag #MyKidneysMyLife and tweeting their legislators to support the Living Donor Protection Act of 2021 Learn more at advocacy.kidney.org

About National Kidney Foundation Living Organ Donation Resources:

THE BIG ASK: THE BIG GIVE platform, which provides nationwide outreach, is designed to increase kidney transplantation through training and tools that help patients and families find a living donor. It includes direct patient and care partner support through our toll-free help line 855-NKF-CARES, peer mentoring from a fellow kidney patient or a living donor, online communities, an advocacy campaign to remove barriers to donation, and a multi-media public awareness campaign. All resources are free and designed to teach kidney patients, or their advocates, how to make a “big ask” to their friends, loved ones, or community to consider making a “big give,” a living organ donation. www.kidney.org/livingdonation.

Kidney Disease Facts

In the United States, 37 million adults are estimated to have chronic kidney disease—and approximately 90 percent don’t know they have it.  1 in 3 adults in the U.S. are at risk for chronic kidney disease.  Risk factors for kidney disease include: diabeteshigh blood pressureheart diseaseobesity, and family history. People of Black or African American, Hispanic or Latino, American Indian or Alaska Native, Asian American, or Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander descent are at increased risk for developing the disease. Blacks or African Americans are almost 4 times more likely than White Americans to have kidney failure.  Hispanics are 1.3 times more likely than non-Hispanics to have kidney failure.

Approximately 750,000 Americans have irreversible kidney failure and need dialysis or a kidney transplant to survive. More than 500,000 of these patients receive dialysis at least three times per week to replace kidney function. Nearly 100,000 Americans are on the waitlist for a kidney transplant right now.  Depending on where a patient lives, the average wait time for a kidney transplant can be upwards of three to seven years.

About the National Kidney Foundation

The National Kidney Foundation (NKF) is the largest, most comprehensive, and longstanding patient-centric organization dedicated to the awareness, prevention, and treatment of kidney disease in the U.S. For more information about NKF, visit www.kidney.org.