[Note: This entry was actually written in Sep 2009. I changed the posting date to keep my blog entries in chronological order.]

I wonder how expensive donating a kidney will be. That is, what will my out-of-pocket costs be? Through a quirk in federal law, all hospital costs for kidney transplant surgery are covered under Medicare, regardless of the patient’s age. Further, it appears that my preoperative lab work will be covered by the recipient’s insurance or Medicare.

However, their insurance will not cover my incidental costs. For instance, I may have to travel to a hospital in another city (e.g., the UCLA Medical Center) where the recipient is located. I may have to book a hotel room and arrive a few days prior to the surgery for a consultation with the surgeon. Afterwards, I may have to remain at the hotel while I recover. The National Kidney Registry estimates that if the donor and a caretaker take 5 weeks off, both fly out-of-town for the surgery, and spend 10 days in a hotel; then the out-of-pocket costs can be about $17,700.

Luckily, I have frequent flyer miles that can be used for discounted tickets and hotel stays. Most airlines, such as United Airlines, offer discounted travel for medical emergencies although it doesn’t seem to apply to my case. I also have friends and relatives in many cities, including LA, who I may be able to stay with.

I wonder if my remaining out-of-pocket costs are tax-deductible as a charitable expense? Further, I wonder if there is a charity that helps cover these travel expenses for those that lack the financial means to pay it themselves. According to United Airline’s web site, it accepts mileage donations for a variety of organizations including Transplant Recipients International Organization. These miles can then be used by transplant recipients, donors, and caregivers.

Finally, any medical complications I have following surgery may not be covered by Medicare. Complications are rare, but I can foresee cases in which my insurance company and the recipient’s insurance company may both refuse to pay for services and argue that the other is responsible.

These are all issues I’ll have to research if the situation arises.

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