New Michigan law protects health coverage for living organ donors

Malinda Herrera of Lansing donated part of her liver in August to help a colleague’s spouse.

Legislation should remove financial fears for those considering helping others

Gift of Life Michigan celebrates the passage of a law that prevents health insurers from denying or limiting coverage for living organ donors in this state.

Sen. Kevin Hertel sponsored the measure (SB 384), which passed both the Michigan House and Senate and was signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in November.

A person can work with a Michigan transplant center to donate a kidney or a portion of their liver to help someone waiting for a lifesaving transplant. The vast majority of organ transplants come from deceased organ donors, and that is facilitated by Gift of Life, the state’s organ and tissue donation program, along with those transplant centers.

Dorrie Dils, president and CEO of Gift of Life Michigan“Living donors are absolute heroes,” said Dorrie Dils, president and CEO of Gift of Life. “They deserve our protection and respect. We hope this legislation will remove the fear that insurance won’t cover costs for anyone considering becoming a living donor.”

The law specifically prohibits insurers from denying or limiting life, health or long-term care insurance because someone decides to be a living donor.

More than 2,400 Michiganders are waiting for a life-saving organ and nearly 2,000 of them — 80% — need a kidney transplant. About 16,000 kidney patients are lingering on dialysis and would benefit from a kidney transplant.

Close to 200 people in Michigan are waiting for liver transplants. Malinda Herrera of Lansing donated part of her liver in August to help a colleague’s spouse. She worked with the transplant program at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor. Herrera said her medical expenses were covered in full.

“The burden came from unpaid time off work,” Herrera said. “For me, it was a leap of faith, but it’s definitely something that had to be taken into consideration. It felt like such an amazing privilege to offer hope to another human.

“I could never have anticipated the fulfillment I would gain from being a living donor.”

In addition to this new law, the state announced on Nov. 1 that all state employees — more than 50,000 — can now receive up to 60 days of paid time off for living donation, but that policy doesn’t cover all Michiganders.

“Those who choose to donate a part of themselves to improve the health of a fellow Michigander represent the best of us,” Gov. Whitmer said. “I’m proud that we are taking action to make sure they can take the time they need for the procedure without sacrificing their paycheck.”

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