Giving the gift of life to your daughter by donating a kidney to her is an amazing sacrifice, one that requires careful thought and many long hours in medical facilities.
You might expect that a person generous enough to give such an extraordinary gift would be warmly applauded and congratulated.
That’s not what happened four years ago to Radburn Royer, a retired high school teacher in Aitkin, Minnesota. His daughter Erika was on dialysis three times a week because of kidney failure from lupus. “I had to help her,” he told AARP Bulletin.
After this perfectly healthy father donated a kidney to his daughter Erika, he was turned down for health insurance. The reason? He had a preexisting condition.
How can this be? Don’t you have to be in excellent health in order to donate a kidney?
Indeed, just like all potential donors, Royer was carefully screened and is in good health. But Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota rejected his application for coverage last year, as well as his appeals; their grounds were that he has chronic kidney disease, in spite of the fact that many people live with one kidney and his nephrologist testified that his kidney is healthy.
Officials with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota refused to discuss Mr. Royer’s case because of privacy laws. Now Royer buys coverage from the state’s Comprehensive Health Association high-risk pool, which costs him $130 more a month and has a higher deductible.
From The New York Times:
Mr. Royer said he is baffled by the denial. “From my perspective, I’d be a good risk,” he said. “I’d just be putting in premiums and helping balance the system out.”
Erika Royer, now 31, has regained her kidney function and has been able to return to work. But because of his donation, her father, a physically active, healthy man, has been unable to obtain private health insurance.
From The New York Times:
The health of living donors is seldom at issue: Though some research suggests that kidney donors may be slightly more prone to develop high blood pressure as they age, long-term studies have found donors live as long as other healthy people. One study reported that donors live even longer.
There are so many ways in which this decision is wrong – As of 2008, 382,343 Americans were receiving kidney dialysis, at a cost of $39.46 billion in public and private spending, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse. Dialysis is so expensive, in fact, that transplant surgery pays for itself in two years, according to one estimate.
Many advocates believe that living organ donors should be guaranteed lifelong health coverage. The Affordable Care Act will end discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, but not until 2014.
But for now, you should not assume that just because you are healthy enough to donate you will be automatically approved for health insurance. Which is a shame.
But we can be thankful that Mitt Romney was not given the opportunity to erase Obamacare.
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