UnitedHealthcare Will Reimburse Kidney Donors’ Travel Expenses

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UnitedHealthcare will soon pay for kidney donors’ travel expenses, addressing one of the major barriers to living organ donation.

UHC and Optum—the health services company that manages transplant services for UnitedHealthcare—will seek to save lives, improve quality of life and drive down the costs of care by helping more people with late-stage kidney disease obtain a kidney transplant.

“Many healthy people are eligible to donate a kidney, yet only one-third of kidney transplants come from living donors,” said Dr. Jon Friedman, chief medical officer for Optum’s Complex Medical Conditions Programs. “This initiative will make it easier for living kidney donors to provide a lifesaving gift to patients and their families.”

Starting in 2017, UnitedHealthcare will reimburse up to $5,000 toward lodging and travel expenses for living kidney donors. The travel reimbursement will be offered on top of existing coverage of medical expenses associated with a kidney transplant for both the recipient and the living donor.

While the need for kidney transplants continues to increase, the number of donor kidneys falls far short of demand. In 2015, only about one in five people on the kidney transplant waiting list received a transplant, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN). Living donors are the best source to increase the pool of kidneys available for transplantation.

UnitedHealthcare will be the largest payer to directly reimburse living donors, from the start of their evaluation process, through follow-up visits two years post-donation. The donor does not need to be enrolled in a UnitedHealthcare plan to qualify for reimbursement.