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Organ donors run risk of being denied health insurance

By not making clear the financial risk of organ donation, insurers put donors in danger of losing affordable coverage and discourage potential donors from helping someone in need.

July 15, 2009|DAVID LAZARUS

Legislation is working its way through Congress that would eliminate exclusions for preexisting conditions for both group and individual policies. This would be a good thing.

At the very least, lawmakers should require that insurers notify policyholders that donating an organ could result in higher rates or reduced coverage.

"The fact that someone is willing to donate an organ -- society shouldn't penalize that person," said Dr. Tse-Ling Fong, who works with USC's Liver Transplant Program and Center for Liver Disease, which conducts about 40 transplants a year.

"I feel a moral responsibility to inform patients about what they could face from insurers," he said. "But at this point, it's a huge unknown."

Abdullah, the uninsured kidney donor, said she has no regrets about having helped someone in need.

"I made a decision to save a life," she said. "How often do you get to say that?"

Even if that decision results in her being penalized by insurers, she said she would do it again -- in a heartbeat.

"But it would be better if I wasn't punished for doing the right thing," Abdullah said.

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David Lazarus' column runs Wednesdays and Sundays.

Send your tips or feedback to david.lazarus@latimes.com.

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latimes.com/lazarus/donors

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