One of the most significant actions a person can take is to donate a kidney or other organ to a person who otherwise will eventually die without a transplant. That’s why it is especially important that a donor not face any additional hurdles to donating, such as denial of life insurance coverage.
OU Medicine, along with the Oklahoma Hospital Association and the National Kidney Foundation, were instrumental in the Oklahoma Legislatureâ’s passage of Senate Bill 704, the Living Donor Protection Act. Sen. Jason Smalley (R-Stroud) and Rep. Terry O’™Donnell (R) authored the Bill. The new law prevents insurers from denying or raising the rates of life insurance, disability insurance or long-term care insurance based solely on a person’™s status as an organ donor. Governor Kevin Stitt held a ceremonial bill signing on Monday, July 29, at the Oklahoma State Capitol.
“There is a major need for organs, especially in Oklahoma, and this law removes a barrier for those who are making a huge decision about donating an organ,” said Greg Lewis, R.N., director of Pediatric and Adult Dialysis at OU Medicine.
Lewis led OU Medicine’s advocacy efforts at the State Capitol, joined by the Oklahoma Hospital Association, National Kidney Foundation, other Oklahoma transplant programs and LifeShare Transplant Donor Services of Oklahoma.
A 2014 study by Johns Hopkins University showed that a quarter of living donors in the study faced discrimination when they tried to obtain or change their life insurance. The National Kidney Foundation also hears regularly from donors who experienced premium changes or other restrictions on their insurance policies.
“You can imagine what a disincentive it would be for a person who wants to donate a kidney, if they’re told they will not be insurable afterward,” said Alan Hawxby, M.D., surgical director of OU Medicine’s adult and pediatric kidney transplant programs and the designated living donor surgeon. “Chronic kidney disease is difficult to fight, so the more we can help facilitate a transplant, the better off the patient and donor will be.”
Chronic kidney disease affects more than 30 million Americans. In Oklahoma, more than 21,000 Medicare patients have kidney disease, and 526 people are waiting for a kidney transplant. Although kidney dialysis keeps patients alive, it is not a long-term solution.
“Last year, only 194 Oklahomans received a kidney transplant,”Lewis said. “Once a person is put on the transplant list, the average waiting time is three to seven years. The average life expectancy on dialysis is five to 10 years. The math is sobering. The clock is ticking for each and every one of those 526 patients on the waiting list. Everything we can do to encourage living donations saves lives.”