HHS proposed rule expands reimbursement for living kidney donors
In keeping with the executive order Advancing American Kidney Health, HHS has released a proposed rule intended to reduce financial barriers to living organ donation by expanding reimbursable expenses for kidney donors.
“Living organ donation is an important option for thousands of people on the national transplant waiting list,” Tom Engels, of the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), said in a press release from the HHS. “To date, approximately 96,000 individuals are on the national waiting list awaiting an available kidney. This proposed rule will increase living organ donation by removing financial disincentives for living organ donors.”
According to the HRSA, without the financial assistance provided by the National Living Donor Assistance Center (NLDAC), 75.6% of donors could not have afforded to go through with the process. While current federal law allows for the reimbursement of up to $6,000 in expenses related to travel, lodging, meals and donation-related medical procedures, recovery time after the transplant surgery means some donors must take time off from work. As the HRSA wrote, “Overall, the costs of the process can be a burden for donors and recipients; for some, these costs making living organ donation unlikely or even impossible.”
The proposed rule would further reimburse donors for lost wages and costs related to eldercare or childcare.
Fresenius Medical Care of North America announced support for the proposed rule in a company press release, with CEO Bill Valle referencing the company’s partnership with Donate Life America as a means to establish a national, universal living donor registry and at-home testing kit. He said, “We strongly believe that the best option for all patients with kidney failure is the option to receive a transplant. Reducing financial barriers by reimbursing kidney donors for lost wages, childcare and other expenses, is a positive step forward in supporting those willing to give life back to others, and therefore making living donation a more viable option for many Americans.”
The National Kidney Foundation also expressed approval, writing in a press release that it will be working with the administration and Congress to expand the financial resources that are available to living donors through the NLDAC program.
“Our broken system of procuring organs and supporting kidney donors’ costs thousands of American lives each year,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar II said in the HHS press release. “President Trump sees kidney disease as a health challenge where we can make a major impact ... On living donations, we’re going to dramatically expand support for living kidney donors, so that Americans who wish to be generous living donors don’t face unnecessary financial barriers to doing so.”