ACSH staffers were taken aback this morning when we read that certain insurance companies have been denying applications or offering coverage with steep premiums to healthy organ donors. Those who are insured through large companies may not run into this problem, but people looking for insurance on the individual market or who may be covered through small businesses could find themselves in hot water.
Some health insurers are apparently attempting to deny coverage, claiming that donating an organ is akin to having a preexisting medical condition. However, such rules should be condemned and rescinded, since (besides being discriminatory) transplant centers make sure potential donors complete a comprehensive battery of medical tests prior to giving up an organ (or, in the cases of lung, pancreas or liver donation, parts of organs). In fact, Matthew Cooper, director of kidney transplantation at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore, thinks the insurance policy exclusion is “absurd” because donors are “some of the healthiest people around.”
Last year, there were over 6,500 transplants from living donors, which are often more successful than those using organs from cadavers. But with 110,000 Americans still in line for an organ transplant — 90,000 needing a new kidney and others awaiting a liver, lung, pancreas or intestine transplant — improvements need to be made, and removing insurance barriers would be a step in the right direction.
Barring or making it more difficult for organ donors to obtain health insurance is the exact opposite of beneficial public health policy, says ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross. “It makes no sense from an economic, health or public policy point of view and this practice should be abolished.”