UnitedHealthcare Will Reimburse Kidney Donors' Travel Expenses, Expanding Life-Saving Access to Kidney Transplants

  • Initiative aims 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

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

The announcement was made yesterday at the 2016 American Transplant Congress in Boston by Jon Friedman, M.D., chief medical officer for Optum’s Complex Medical Conditions programs. Optum is the health services company that manages transplant services for UnitedHealthcare. Both companies are collaborating with the American Society of Transplantation (AST) and American Society of Transplant Surgeons (ASTS), which hosted the congress, to improve outcomes, reduce costs and enhance the experience of donors and recipients.

UnitedHealthcare will be the largest health plan 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.

“Many healthy people are eligible to donate a kidney, yet only one-third of kidney transplants come from living donors,” said Friedman, who has clinical oversight and responsibility for transplantation and chronic and end-stage kidney disease for Optum. “This initiative will make it easier for living kidney donors to provide a life-saving gift to patients and their families.”

According to the AST, 96 percent of kidney donors experience donation-related financial consequences.

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.

“The American Society of Transplant Surgeons applauds UnitedHealthcare and Optum for taking this significant step toward reducing the financial barriers to living organ donation, and we look forward to working with them and other partners to make it possible for everyone who wants to donate an organ to do so,” said Charlie Miller, M.D., president of ASTS.

James Allan, M.D., president of the American Society of Transplantation, added: “UnitedHealthcare and Optum’s efforts to address the issue of late-stage kidney disease are significant. We hope this is only the first step as our health care system works to remove financial and other barriers to organ donation.”

UnitedHealthcare plans will reimburse lodging and travel expenses for the kidney donor and a companion, starting with the donor’s initial evaluation to determine suitability, through follow-up evaluations up to two years after donor surgery. The travel reimbursement, up to $5,000, will be available for all donors whose intended transplant recipients are enrolled in UnitedHealthcare fully insured plans as of the new policy year, Jan. 1, 2017.

About UnitedHealthcare

UnitedHealthcare is dedicated to helping people nationwide live healthier lives by simplifying the health care experience, meeting consumer health and wellness needs, and sustaining trusted relationships with care providers. The company offers the full spectrum of health benefit programs for individuals, employers, military service members, retirees and their families, and Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries, and contracts directly with 1 million physicians and care professionals, and 6,000 hospitals and other care facilities nationwide. UnitedHealthcare is one of the businesses of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH), a diversified Fortune 50 health and well-being company. For more information, visit UnitedHealthcare at www.uhc.com or follow @myUHC on Twitter.

About Optum

Optum is a leading information and technology-enabled health services business dedicated to helping make the health system work better for everyone. With more than 100,000 people worldwide, Optum delivers intelligent, integrated solutions that help to modernize the health system and improve overall population health. Optum is part of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE:UNH).

About the American Society of Transplant Surgeons

The American Society of Transplant Surgeons represents approximately 1,800 professionals dedicated to excellence in transplantation surgery. Our mission is to advance the art and science of transplant surgery through leadership, advocacy, education, and training. To learn more, visit ASTS.org.

About the American Society of Transplantation

The American Society of Transplantation (AST) represents more than 3,300 transplantation professionals dedicated to advancing the field and improving patient care by promoting research, education, advocacy and organ donation. The AST’s diverse membership includes physicians, surgeons, scientists, nurses, allied health professionals and administrators. For more information about the AST, please visit myAST.org.


Related Stories

Share with your friends

UnitedHealthcare Will Reimburse Kidney Donors' Travel Expenses, Expanding Life-Saving Access to Kidney Transplants