Friday, March 26, 2010

Organ Donation No Longer a "Pre-Existing Condition"

March 26, 2010

There is a horrible little secret in the organ donation world.   Insurance companies often punish living donors.  What?!  That's right they deemed organ donation a "pre-existing" condition.  What makes me queasy is that on one hand the transplant's recipient insurance company would pay the all the donor's hospital expenses and even travel costs.  On the other hand, the donor is screwed for their charitable act by their own insurance company or when applying for a new policy.

The true idiocy of this insurance practice is that only the healthiest people are ever allowed to donate.  Studies of living donors show it is very rare to experience any long-term adverse affects.  Some good news folks, the "pre-existing conditions" provision in the new health care reform law stops this practice.   

There's another great benefit.  The new law eliminates annual and lifetime service caps.  This helps folks with lifelong disabilities, chronic illnesses like kidney disease and cancer and people who experience any catastrophic health condition.  This will save hundreds of thousands of people from bankruptcy and despair.

There's one critical area of Medicare that heath care reform did not address concerning organ donation.  Medicare covers organ transplants, but only covers anti-rejection medications for 36 months.   Most transplanted organs last over ten years.  Anti-rejections meds run over a thousand dollars a month.  This puts the poor and people on fixed incomes in a horrible situation.  The ability to pay for anti-rejection medications can disqualify a person from ever getting a transplant. They get stuck on dialysis which is much more expensive in the long term than a transplant and medication.   It doesn't make much sense, does it?  There's was a great story in the Oregonian about a young mother in this very situation.  Click the link below to see the creative way her friends are helping her overcome this issue.  Hint: it involves wine.  Unfortunately, it's not an idea that scales to help everyone, but it is what we should expect until the issue is addressed.  That said, it has been a good week for change we can believe in.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ending the pre-existing condition status for organ donors is very positive news. Getting extended coverage for anti-rejection medication is something to work for now. So is taking profit out of the whole system.

Which brings me to my next point. I'm anxious for you to opine more about the Citizens United Supreme Court case that threatens our fragile democracy by allowing greatly increased corporate spending in campaigns. I recently donated to Common Cause, an organization that fights for the Fair Elections Now act and other such proposals. I wanted to know if you supported Common Cause or another group. I want to make sure I fight for free and fair elections in the most effective way. Soon, Shawn Sorensen