Your Cost of Donating
“Wait! I was told donating wasn’t going to cost me anything! What do you mean by ‘your cost of donating’?”
The good news is, if you are willing and able to be a living donor, the health insurance of your recipient usually picks up all the medical costs directly related to your donation. For example, insurance pays for the expenses of testing, physical and psychosocial evaluations, the surgery, and the time you spend in the hospital recovering.
However, there may be expenses you pay out of your own pocket and you may have lost wages. For example, if you’re employed, you’ll need to take time away from work for your evaluation, surgery, and recovery. That means you won’t be earning a paycheck unless you have some form of disability insurance or paid time off benefits to cover your time away from work.
A recent survey of living kidney donors revealed that only 14% were able to return to work within two weeks of surgery; 46% returned within three to four weeks; 76% returned within five to six weeks. But 24% need more than six weeks before returning to work. The median time off from work was a little over five weeks. So maybe you can plan on six weeks off and hope for less but be prepared for more.
For living liver donors, 50% were back at work within four weeks; 75% returned within eight weeks; and all donors were back within 12 weeks. For liver donors, maybe plan on eight weeks and hope for an earlier return.
You may also need to pay for travel expenses, child/elder/pet care, and help with every-day activities while you’re recovering.
You will also be committing to a lifetime of healthy living after you donate in order to protect your remaining kidney or the portion of liver you kept. At the very least, that means an annual physical exam that checks your kidney/liver health, your general health, and your psychological wellbeing.
One study revealed living kidney donors had out-of-pocket expenses of about $450 on average. But the range was wide, from as little as $10 to more than $10,000. A third of the donors also lost wages averaging about $2,700. That’s an average total loss of more than $3,000. Another study showed living kidney donors had expenses that averaged about $1,300, and lost wages of about $5,500 — a total loss of $6,800.
Living liver donors have similar out-of-pocket expenses. A study of 15 donors in 2014 revealed a median loss of wages of $3,000 with other expenses of about $1,700 for a total cost to the donor of $4,700.
How Much Will You Have to Pay?
Fortunately, we can help you anticipate any out-of-pocket expenses and find possible resources to help you cover those costs.
LDO created a spreadsheet to help you estimate the expenses you might have to pay out of your own pocket. It’s based on the experiences of other living donors. It’s a big spreadsheet because it tries to capture all of the types of costs you might have to pay. You probably won’t have all of those expenses, so if there’s an expense you don’t think you’ll have, you can skip it and move on to the next one. If you’re not sure what the cost will be, just make a guess. You can come back later and change it.
When you click here the spreadsheet will automatically download to your computer or phone.
There are instructions on how to use the spreadsheet on tabs in the spreadsheet. Be sure to click on the tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet.
Do you have questions or need help with the spreadsheet? Send an email to us and we’ll help you out.
Financial Resources for Living Donors
There are several organizations that want to help reduce or eliminate the financial barriers to living donation. Here are some examples:
- National Living Donor Assistance Center provides reimbursement of certain expenses if you meet the income-based requirements for eligibility.
- In Canada, the Kidney Foundation has a Living Organ Donor Expense Reimbursement Program.
- American Society of Transplantation’s Live Donor Financial Toolkit helps you identify potential out-of-pocket costs.
- American Transplant Foundation’s Patient Assistance Program helps cover lost wages.
- Transplant Recipients International Organization’s United Airlines Travel Program provides travel assistance.
- National Kidney Registry’s Donor Shield program provides insurance and reimbursement of expenses and lost wages.
- Georgia Transplant Foundation’s Living Donor Assistance program provides financial assistance to living donors in Georgia.
- Iowa’s Anatomical Gift Transplantation Fund Grant provides assistance for living donors in Iowa.
- American Living Donor Fund: https://www.helplivingdonorssavelives.org/
- Kid-U-Not Living Organ Donor Fund: https://kidunot.org/
- Heal With Love Foundation: http://www.healwithlovefoundation.org/index.html
If you are employed, ask your employer if they have programs to help you through the process, such as paid leave for donation and other paid time-off programs. For example, state employees in North Carolina are eligible for three weeks of paid leave under the state’s Living Donor Protection Act. Here is a list of other states’ donor leave policies.