NKF Honors UnitedHealth Group with 2021 Corporate Innovator Award

NKF Honors UnitedHealth Group with 2021 Corporate Innovator Award

Company recognized for developing the first-of-its-kind program designed to support employees, and boost the critically low number of living donor organ transplants

January 27, 2021, New York, NY — UnitedHealth Group has been selected to receive the 2021 Corporate Innovator Award from the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) as part of the annual Spring Clinical Meetings to be held April 6th – 10th, 2021.

In June 2020, UnitedHealth Group launched The HERO Program™ (Helping Employees Receive Organs), which provides financial support to help cover expenses incurred as a result of living organ donation such as lost wages, travel and lodging to individuals who donate a kidney, liver or bone marrow to a company employee or family member. Living donors do not need to be enrolled in a UnitedHealthcare plan or employed by UnitedHealth Group to participate. The HERO Program is the first program by a large employer that covers living organ donation expenses for employees at other organizations.

“Eliminating financial barriers is key to increasing the number of living organ donations,” said Kevin Longino, chief executive officer of NKF and a kidney transplant patient. “The National Kidney Foundation applauds UnitedHealth Group for its leadership role in setting this extraordinary precedent, and its willingness to share the financial and legal models it used to launch the HERO Program with any employer interested in extending this life-saving benefit to employees and potential future living organ donors.”   

“UnitedHealth Group is proud to support our employees with this unique benefit and we invite other companies to join us in working to remove the financial barriers for living organ donors. Not only will this program save lives, it offers a significant value to employers in reducing the cost of care for employees with both chronic and end-stage kidney disease,” said Dr. Jon Friedman, Chief Medical Office of Optum Medical Benefits Management and The HERO Program co-creator.

The Corporate Innovator Award was established to recognize industry partners that have advanced the field of nephrology or transplantation by addressing an unmet medical need, through new programming or improving upon an existing practice, therapeutic or technology.

Companies interested in extending this life-saving benefit to their employees and potential future living organ donors can visit unitedhealthgroup.com/HERO to learn more. 


NKF Spring Clinical Meetings

For the past 29 years, nephrology healthcare professionals from across the country have come to NKF’s Spring Clinical Meetings to learn about the newest developments related to all aspects of nephrology practice; network with colleagues; and present their research findings. The NKF Spring Clinical Meetings are designed for meaningful change in the multidisciplinary healthcare teams’ skills, performance, and patient health outcomes. It is the only conference of its kind that focuses on translating science into practice for the entire healthcare team.  In 2021 the Spring Clinical Meetings will be a Live-Virtual Meeting due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  


About Kidney Disease

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 American adults are at risk for chronic kidney disease.  Risk factors for kidney disease include: diabeteshigh blood pressureheart diseaseobesity, and family history. People of African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian, or Pacific Islander descent are at increased risk for developing the disease. 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.


About Dialysis and Transplant

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. Each day 12 people die waiting for a kidney. Living organ donation not only saves lives, it saves moneyEach year, Medicare spends approximately $92,000 per dialysis patient and less than half, $36,000, for a transplant patient.


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 programs and tools that help patients and families find a living donor. It includes direct patient and caregiver 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.


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