Healio Special Report: Health Care and Politics

Healio Special Report: Health Care and Politics

March 12, 2021
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Living organ donation legislation introduced in Congress

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Legislation that would make living organ donation easier has been introduced in both chambers of Congress with bipartisan sponsorship, according to a press release.

The bills would prevent insurance companies from denying, limiting or charging higher premiums for life, disability and long-term care coverage and amend the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 to include living organ donation as a serious medical condition, according to a fact sheet on the website of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. It would also direct HHS to update its materials on living organ donation, according to the fact sheet.

Organ donation
Source: Adobe Stock

“It’s a tragedy that so many people die while waiting for life-saving organ donations. We must do more to remove the barriers that keep Americans from donating," Gillibrand said in a press release. “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 worrying that they’ll face insurance discrimination or that they could lose their job as they recover. These protections are critical for individuals who choose to become living donors, and I will keep working with my colleagues across the aisle to finally pass this legislation.”

Gillibrand introduced S. 377, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., to the Senate. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) introduced H.R. 1255 to the U.S. House of Representatives along with co-sponsor Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash.

State laws

Currently, there are several states with living donor laws, according to the American Transplant Foundation (ATF). However, the protections vary by state. Some state laws are similar to the Living Donor Protection Act protections: in California, the state and most private employers grant employees 30 days of paid leave and life, disability and long-term care insurers cannot discriminate against living donors, according to the ATF. However, in other states like Indiana, state employees are eligible for time off, but there are no formal insurance protections, according to the ATF document.

The current House and Senate bills would provide consistent protections across the country. Nadler previously introduced the Living Donor Protection Act to the House of Representatives in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2019; each time, the bill was referred to a House subcommittee, but did not proceed to a vote, according to Congress’s website.

Support from organizations

Nonprofit and professional organizations, including the National Kidney Foundation, American Kidney Fund, American Society of Nephrology and American Society of Pediatric Nephrology, have endorsed the bill, according to the fact sheet on Gillibrand’s website.

According to a press release from the NKF, despite the “crucial” nature of living donors, 12 patients in the United States die each day waiting for a transplant.

Kevin Longino, CEO of the NKF and a kidney transplant patient, said in the release that the bill “will help advance kidney transplantation and remove critical barriers to organ donation.”

Professional organizations related to multiple other health care disciplines have also endorsed the bill.

Joe Ferreira, president of the Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, told Healio Nephrology that “[l]ike our colleagues in the donation and transplant community, we support efforts to increase the number of life-saving transplants.”

The American Society of Transplantation (AST) also endorsed the bill.

“Removing barriers to living organ donation, prohibiting certain discrimination in insurance and codifying protection for living donors under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is critical and key to the health and success of transplant patients, donors and their families,” Richard Formica, MD, president of the AST, said in a press release. “The AST strongly supports and endorses the [Living Donor Protection Act] LDPA legislation as well as the steadfast leadership and support of Senators Gillibrand and Cotton, Representatives Nadler and Herrera Beutler.”

On Feb. 23, the Senate bill had its second reading and both chambers referred the bills to the appropriate Congressional committees. The next step for both bills to become law is passing a cameral vote.

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