Lawmakers introduce bipartisan, bicameral legislation to protect organ donors


A donor is prepared in an operating room before a kidney transplant at Johns Hopkins Hospital June 26, 2012 in Baltimore, Maryland. Doctors from Johns Hopkins transplanted the kidney from a living donor into the patient recipient. AFP PHOTO/Brendan SMIALOWSKI (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/GettyImages)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — At the start of National Kidney Month, U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR) and U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) and Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) introduced legislation to protect the rights of living organ donors.

“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,” Sen. Gillibrand said. “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.”

The Living Donor Protection Act would protect living donors from high insurance premiums, codify Department of Labor (DOL) guidance that covers living donors under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) in the private and civil service, remove barriers to organ donation, and provide certainty to donors and recipients.

“The Living Donor Protection Act would encourage more organ donors to step forward by protecting them from denial of insurance coverage, higher health-insurance premiums, and job loss,” Sen. Cotton said. “Not only do living organ donors save lives, but these transplants have better patient outcomes and are more cost-effective for the Medicare system.”

Organ donation saves thousands of lives every year, but roadblocks remain that too often stop individuals from becoming living donors. According to a 2014 study in the American Journal of Transplantation, as many as 27% of living organ donors experience difficulty securing or paying for insurance after their procedures because of discriminatory practices. Others face job loss after taking required time off to recover from their donation surgery.

“When an organ donor decides to donate one of their organs to someone else, they aren’t just saving someone’s life—they’re making one of the most selfless, difficult decisions anyone could ever make. The last thing they need in the midst of that challenging process is to be confronted by needless roadblocks or insurance discrimination,” Rep. Nadler said. “These roadblocks can make it economically impossible for potential donors to make that choice and, simply put, they are costing lives. That’s why I’m proud to co-sponsor the Living Donor Protection Act, which seeks to knock down these needless barriers to lifesaving organ donation.”

“We lose a dozen American lives each day because folks are forced to wait too long for kidney transplants. But there’s hope here; there’s action Congress can take to help get more people this life-saving treatment before it’s too late,” Rep. Beutler said. “I’m proud to help reintroduce the Living Donor Protection Act that will protect living organ donors and remove barriers for those waiting in a long line to receive a transplant. I’m going to continue championing common-sense, bipartisan solutions that seek to match life-saving organs with the thousands of Americans who desperately need them.”

The Living Donor Protection Act would protect living organ donors and promote organ donation in three easy, low-cost ways:

  1. Prohibits life, disability, and long-term care insurance companies from denying or limiting coverage and from charging higher premiums for living organ donors.
  2. 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.
  3. Directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to update their materials on live organ donation to reflect these new protections and encourage more individuals to consider donating an organ.

The bill has support from numerous groups advocating on behalf of organ transplantation—including endorsements from the National Kidney Foundation, American Kidney Fund, the American Council of Life Insurers, American Society of Transplantation, American Society of Transplant Surgeons, American Society of Nephrology, Greater New York Hospital Association, LiveOnNY, Alport Syndrome Foundation, American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases, American Liver Foundation, American Nephrology Nurses Association, American Society of Nephrology, American Society of Pediatric Nephrology, Dialysis Patient Citizens, IGA Nephropathy Foundation, Improving Renal Outcomes Collaborative, and LifeGift.

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