UnitedHealthcare to reimburse kidney donors' travel expenses

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Starting January 2017, UnitedHealthcare will fund up to $5,000 of kidney transplant donors' lodging and travel expenses.

The funding aims to diminish barriers to living organ donors, as 96 percent of donors experience donation-related financial consequences, according to the American Society of Transplantation.

In 2015, only a fifth of patients on the kidney transplant waiting list underwent transplant, according to the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. Living donors are seen as the best way to offset this discrepancy.

Jon Friedman, MD, CMO of Optum Complex Medical Conditions — the company that manages United's transplant services — announced the opportunity Thursday.

"Many healthy people are eligible to donate a kidney, yet only one-third of kidney transplants come from living donors," Dr. Friedman said. "This initiative will make it easier for living kidney donors to provide a life-saving gift to patients and their families."

Reimbursements begin at initial evaluations and accrue through follow-up visits up to two years later.

Travel reimbursements are in addition to preexisting medical expense coverage for both the donor and recipient. Kidney recipients must be fully insured UnitedHealthcare members for their donors to be eligible for the reimbursement.

UnitedHealthcare will become the largest insurer to reimburse living donors. 

More articles about payer issues:
Healthcare access, affordability improved under ACA: 5 key findings
5 things to know about Minnesota's shriveling insurance market
HHS tightens regulations for short-term health coverage

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