After Kidney Donation, Some Have Insurance Difficulties

Living kidney donors in the United States sometimes have trouble buying or changing life and health insurance policies, reports a study in the American Journal of Transplantation.

The survey study included 1046 individuals who underwent live donor nephrectomy at one transplant center in the United States between 1970 and 2011. Donors were asked whether they had initiated or changed their health or life insurance after donating and whether they had any difficulties in doing so.

Of 395 donors who changed or initiated health insurance, 27 (7 percent) reported difficulties. Fifteen patients were denied health insurance, 12 were charged a higher premium, and 8 were told that being a living kidney donor was a pre-existing condition.

Difficulties were also reported by 46 of 186 donors (25 percent) who changed or initiated life insurance. Twenty-three respondents were denied coverage, 27 were charged higher premiums, and 17 were told that they had a pre-existing condition.

Men and donors older than 40 had more problems with life insurance. In response to open-ended questions, donors reported other types of problems, such as delays and additional paperwork. A few believed that they had obtained insurance or favorable rates because they were “healthy enough to be a donor.”

A significant percentage of living kidney donors have problems changing or obtaining insurance—particularly life insurance—after donation. The researchers express concern that insurance problems might pose a barrier to live kidney donation. They believe that the transplant community can play an important role in providing information on the health status of live donors: “With lower death rates than the general population, kidney donors represent excellent candidates for health and life insurance” [Boyarsky BJ, et al. Experiences obtaining insurance after live kidney donation. Am J Transplant 2014. doi: 10.1111/ajt.12819].