Members of the U.S. House and Senate from New York, Washington state and Arkansas have introduced a bill in Congress to require employers to recognize living organ donors under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Reps. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, and Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., joined Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-NY, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark., on Feb. 14 to introduce the Living Donor Protection Act of 2019.
According to a press release issued by Nadler’s office, the Department of Labor issued a legal opinion last year stating that individuals who choose to donate an organ are covered under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The Living Donor Protection Act would codify the Department of Labor’s guidance to protect living donors in the private and civil service sector, removing one of the largest barriers to organ donation, they said.
“Every year, 6,000 Americans become living donors of kidneys, livers, and other organs to save the lives of family members, friends, colleagues and even complete strangers,” Nadler said in the release. “But every 10 minutes, another name is added to the transplant waitlist. This Living Donor Protection Act, which I am proud to sponsor again this Congress, will provide critical protections for living donors and remove economic roadblocks that too often make it impossible to become a living donor. Ensuring that donors have the time they need to heal following donation and can continue to afford insurance going forward will give donors more certainty and encourage more Americans to make the gift of living organ donation.”
The legislators cited a 2014 study in the American Journal of Transplantation that indicated that as many as 27% of living organ donors have trouble securing or paying for insurance after their procedures because of discriminatory practices.
The Living Donor Protection Act would protect living organ donors and promote organ donation in three ways, according to the press release:
- the act prohibits life, disability and long-term care insurance companies from denying or limiting coverage and from charging higher premiums for living organ donors;
- it 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
- the act directs HHS to update their materials on live organ donation to reflect these new protections and encourage more individuals to consider donating an organ.
“Organ donation is the gift of life. I am proud to work with colleagues in both the House and Senate on this bipartisan legislation to protect living donors and removing existing barriers to donation,” Beutler said in the release. “Life-saving organ donations also saves Medicare millions of dollars and cut costs across the health care system, which means it helps meet my goal of delivering better health care to Southwest Washington residents.”
The bipartisan act “would help ensure that the individuals who are willing to save someone’s life through an organ donation can do so without worrying that they’ll face insurance discrimination or that they could lose their job as they recover from this invasive procedure,” Gillibrand said in the release. “These are critical protections that the selfless individuals who choose to become living donors need, and I urge my colleagues in Congress to pass this legislation.”
The legislation is supported by the National Kidney Foundation, the American Society of Transplantation and the American Society of Transplant Surgeons.
“Today, four champions in Congress stood up for organ donors and for the 100,000 Americans waiting on a kidney transplant,” Kevin Longino, CEO of the NKF and a kidney transplant patient, said in the press release. “The National Kidney Foundation is proud to have worked closely with these Congressional champions on the Living Donor Protection Act and we applaud them for their willingness to reach across the aisle to help protect living donors and reduce some of the barriers to donation.”
Dianne McKay, MD, AST president, said the Living Donor Protection Act “is a thoughtful public policy proposal that would immediately improve the lives of those seeking to donate life, individuals awaiting a lifesaving donor organ and their families.”
"Removing barriers to living donation is a critical part of expanding access to life-saving transplants for those suffering from end-stage organ disease,” Dixon B. Kaufman, MD, PhD, president of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons, said in the release. “The legislation targets two important impediments to organ donation: employment security and insurance coverage.”