Organ donors hit with shocking bills

Nov. 1, 2009 at 4:28 PM
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AUSTIN, Texas, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- Kidney donors may face huge medical bills because having one kidney may constitute a pre-existing condition under which coverage is denied, officials confirm.

A Texas hospital official said organ donors are told, but only orally, that having one kidney may be a pre-existing condition affecting insurance.

Philip Knisely, 53, of Austin, Texas, who donated a kidney to a co-worker a year ago, has received more than $18,000 in related medical bills, and said he was not informed that if he ever lost his employment-related insurance, insurers might consider his having a single kidney an uninsurable pre-existing condition, the American-Stateman reported Sunday.

James Pittman, transplant program director at North Austin Medical Center where the transplant was done, said donors receive that information orally, the newspaper reported.

As Congress debates reform of the healthcare system, it should require Medicare to ascertain that donors are covered, as provided by a 1972 law, regardless of states' conflicting policies, said Donna Luebke, a cardiology nurse practitioner at MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, a kidney donor and nationwide advocate for living donors.

Luebke urges legislation prohibiting insurers from discriminating against donors for having "pre-existing conditions."

Some advocates also want a living-donor registry so it is easier to track them and any future medical problems they may have, the newspaper reported.

"Right now it is the issue for living donors in this country," Luebke said. "I know of donors who have paid thousands of dollars out of pocket for complications."

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