He Donated His Kidney and Received a $13,064 Bill in Return

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      If he turned out to be a match, Malin knew the surgery could put his health at risk. The recovery would be physically painful. What he didn’t anticipate was that it would put his finances in jeopardy. That just as he would have to trust the skilled hands of the surgeon to make sure the operation went well, he’d have to trust in the expertise of billing coders and financial coordinators to navigate the increasingly complex system that covers the costs of transplant surgeries.

      Living organ donors are never supposed to receive a bill for care related to a transplant surgery. The recipient’s insurance covers all of those costs. This rule is key to a system built on encouraging such a selfless act. And for most uninsured patients in end-stage kidney failure, Medicare would pick up the tab. But in Malin’s case, he would end up facing a $13,000 billing mistake and the threat of having his bill sent to collections.

      Donors like Malin play a critical role in the nation’s transplant system. According to data from the United Network for Organ Sharing, in the last three years more than 30% of kidney donations came from living donors. Neither UNOS nor other national advocacy organizations track how often billing problems like those encountered by Malin occur. But advocates say they do happen and can deter donors from coming forward.

      “Living donors should not be receiving any bills at all whatsoever regarding any part of the living donation process,” said Morgan Reid, director of transplant policy and strategy for the National Kidney Foundation.

      Jesus: Hey, Dad? God: Yes, Son? Jesus: Western civilization followed me home. Can I keep it? God: Certainly not! And put it down this minute--you don't know where it's been! Tom Robbins in Another Roadside Attraction

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