Originally published July 26 2014
Insurance companies punish healthy kidney donors by restricting their health and life insurance options
by PF Louis
(NaturalNews) Donating a kidney to someone in need is an issue for insurers, especially life insurance providers. Although the Affordable Care Act (ACA) aka Obamacare forbids discriminating against kidney donors, other health insurers and especially life insurance providers use it to forbid insurance or provide it with higher premiums.
Johns Hopkins researchers determined that living post-kidney donation individuals faced more hurdles trying to acquire non-Obamacare health coverage or life insurance. This is one of the challenges facing one considering a kidney donation.
"Living donors are some of the healthiest people in the United States. They're heavily screened before they're approved for donation and should be easily insurable," said lead researcher Dorry Segev, MD, PhD, MHS, and associate professor of surgery and epidemiology.
After getting individual anecdotal reports, the Johns Hopkins researchers set out to obtain hard epidemiological survey data. They surveyed 1,046 people who donated a kidney at The Johns Hopkins Hospital between 1970 and 2011, and asked whether they had initiated or changed health or life insurance in the years after their donation and the results.
Among 395 donors who tried to initiate or change health insurance after donation, 27 said they faced problems, with 15 denied health insurance completely. Twelve were charged a higher premium while eight were informed a minus one kidney from a donation was a "preexisting condition."
Dr. Segev mentioned that some of the hurdles may be from misinterpreting kidney function tests needed for securing some health or life insurance policies. Despite routine kidney function test results changing after a kidney donation, those changes are not necessarily signs of kidney disease.
But donors and their transplant doctors are often put to the task of explaining these results to insurance companies to argue for coverage at a normal premium.
This study was published in the online American Journal of Transplantation on July 16th, 2014. Dr. Segev added this comment: "There are about 100,000 people in the U.S. who have altruistically donated a kidney. Insurance companies should make a strong effort on behalf of people who perform this selfless act to make sure that they're well taken care of."
Do insurers have a case after all? This study was completed before Obamacare (ACA). Those kidney donors who do apply will be spared this issue. But of course, many who have changed from their current insurer to Obamacare have incurred higher premiums already. Former military persons using Veteran's Administration (VA) health coverage are completely exempt from any discrimination.
But for either category, the question of life insurance looms. Is there cause for concern among insurers? After all, one is without one of his or her kidneys. We are born with two, and the health of a donor could be in question.
The University of Maryland Medical School (UMMS) claims a person can lead an active, normal life with only one kidney, and studies show that kidney donors do not have shorter life expectancies or increased risks of developing kidney disease or any other health problems.
However, the risk of complications from surgery, such as infections, excess bleeding, or the occasional rare death are similar to most other procedures. But if you die, no more insurance cares, right?
UMMS also asserts that one kidney is sufficient to keep the body healthy, a notion that warrants cautious skepticism. They claim after recovering from surgery, a donor can work, drive, exercise and participate in sports and continue in all types of occupations.
But they advise at least annual checkups after donating a kidney. And if health issues are discovered, those drugs come rolling in with their side effects.
Standards of what constitutes a healthy life are not the same for everyone outside the mainstream medical system. One must be capable taking complete responsibility for his or her health if there is a strong enough reason to donate half of one's kidney capacity.
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