Nearly every living organ donor (96%) experiences financial hardship due to lost wages and travel and time away from work, according to the American Society of Transplantation (AST). To address this challenge, UnitedHealth Group has launched a first-of-its-kind program designed to lower the barriers to living donor transplants: Helping Employees Receive Organs — The HERO Program™.

At UnitedHealth Group, we are dedicated to expanding access to quality health care and making quality health care more affordable for everyone. Living donors should not have to worry about financial considerations when saving lives. The HERO Program provides up to $12,000 in financial support for lost wages and travel and lodging – up to $6,000 for lost wages and up to $6,000 of travel and lodging expenses – to individuals outside UnitedHealth Group who donate a kidney, a liver or bone marrow to a  company employee or family member enrolled in an eligible employer-sponsored medical plan*. Donors do not need to be enrolled in a UnitedHealthcare plan. The HERO Program is the first program by a large employer that covers expenses for employees at other organizations.

hero donor program

How It Started

The HERO Program was created by two Optum employees — Andrea Deanovic Schmidt and Dr. Jon Friedman, Fellow of the American Society of Transplantation. “My brother gave me the gift of a kidney donation and did so despite the financial implications. At UnitedHealth Group, we know it doesn’t always work out that way, that the financial barriers are significant, and that living-donor transplants have better clinical outcomes,” said Andrea Deanovic Schmidt, OptumHealth Transplant Resource Services product director and The HERO Program co-creator. “We believe if we can continue to remove financial barriers, we will save lives.”

The HERO Program has already helped two living donors shoulder the financial burden associated with transplantation since its launch in June.

“We believe the decision to serve as a living organ donor should be financially neutral,” said Dr. Jon Friedman, FAST, OptumHealth Medical Benefit Management chief medical officer and co-creator of the program. “This vision is shared by the American Society of Transplantation and we are thrilled to launch The HERO Program in parallel with the AST Living Donor Circle of Excellence. Together, we hope companies will follow our lead and are eager to connect with any company to help them implement this program. This program will save lives and offers a significant value to the employer.”

Our Partner in Transplantation


The AST is dedicated to advancing the field of transplantation and improving patient care by promoting research, education, advocacy, organ donation and service to the community.

UnitedHealth Group is the founding member of the AST Living Donor Circle of Excellence. The newly established program aims to recognize companies that implement policies that provide financial support to employees who choose to be a living organ donor and/or others from outside the company who donate to an employee in need of an organ transplant, thus eliminating financial barriers associated with living organ donation. Learn more about the AST Living Donor Circle of Excellence.

Join Us

We invite employers to join us in offering this live-saving benefit for their employees and potential future living organ donors. Please contact us or the AST to learn more about how you can implement this benefit at your company.

Andrea Deanovic Schmidt:
Dr. Jon Friedman:

*UnitedHealth Group employees enrolled in the following medical plans are eligible for The HERO Program: HSA-eligible plan, Accountable Care Plan, Doctors Plan, Hawaii PPO, Kelsey-Seybold Primary Care Plan, M Health Fairview Primary Care Plan or WellMed, 1st Tier.