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Bill protecting insurance for live organ donors heads to Minnesota Senate

If signed into law by the governor, the legislation would prohibit life insurance, long-term care insurance or disability insurance carriers from declining or limiting coverage to living organ or marrow donors.

Minnesota State Capitol
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ST. PAUL — A bill that would offer protections for organ and bone marrow donors from discrimination by insurance companies should be headed to the Minnesota Senate floor this week for a vote.

If signed into law, the legislation would prohibit life insurance, long-term care insurance or disability insurance carriers from declining or limiting coverage to living organ or marrow donors. The Affordable Care Act already prevents health insurers from discriminating against living tissue and organ donors, but other forms of insurance do not have the same federal protections.

Rep. Kaohly Vang Her, DFL-St. Paul, who introduced a version of the bill in the House of Representatives, said the issue is a personal one as she was diagnosed with kidney disease as a teenager. Eventually, she will need a transplant in order to live, she said. Fewer barriers for live donors could make it easier for patients to find a kidney.

Rep. Kaohly Vang Her, DFL-St. Paul.jpg
Rep. Kaohly Vang Her, DFL-St. Paul

“We protect our heroes, living donors, who have selflessly given the gift of life by donating their kidneys or other organs to support people’s lives,” she said ahead of a floor vote on the bill Tuesday night, May 17.

The bill passed 126-8 in the House and has a companion bill in the Senate. The office of that bill’s sponsor, Park Rapids Republican Sen. Paul Utke, expects a vote by the end of this week. The bill would then head to the desk of Gov. Tim Walz for his signature.

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Most living kidney donors do not have difficulty obtaining or keeping life insurance, but sometimes costs can go up when they seek a new plan, according to the American Society of Transplantation . Live liver donors may have a harder time buying a new policy because there is limited data on the procedure, the group said.

Chronic kidney disease affects one in seven adults and the only permanent treatment is a transplant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One-fifth of Medicare spending covers chronic kidney disease treatment, and if a patient gets a transplant before needing dialysis it can save an average of $450,000 in medical expenses, said Jen Anderson, a kidney donor with the National Kidney Foundation at a House Commerce Committee hearing in March.

“By reducing barriers kidney donors face we can increase the number of living donors and decrease health care spending for private employers and Medicare,” Anderson said.

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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