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Donate a Kidney, Lose Health Insurance

You may have trouble getting private insurance if you're an organ donor

How can a perfectly healthy father donate a kidney to his daughter and then be turned down for health insurance on the grounds that he has a preexisting condition?

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Radburn Royer, 57, donated a kidney to his daughter and is now being denied health coverage.

Jenn Ackerman

Radburn Royer lost private health insurance after donating a kidney.

That's what happened to Radburn Royer, 57, a retired high school teacher in Aitkin, Minn. His daughter, Erika, 31, was on dialysis three times a week because of kidney failure from lupus. "I had to help her," he says.

So, like any potential organ donor, Royer was carefully screened, found to be healthy and allowed to donate a kidney to his daughter, who is no longer on dialysis.

But now, Royer can't get private health insurance. Instead he buys coverage from the state's Comprehensive Health Association high-risk pool, which costs him $130 more a month and has a higher deductible.

Before his daughter's transplant, four years ago, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota provided Royer's health insurance. But it rejected his application for coverage last year and has turned down several appeals. The reason: "chronic kidney disease." Blue Cross and Blue Shield cites the higher than normal creatinine levels in his blood, Royer says. Creatinine is an indicator of how well a kidney is functioning, and donors tend to have higher levels.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield declined to comment on Royer's case but said a person with one kidney who tests within normal ranges would be a strong candidate for coverage.

Unfortunately, Royer's dilemma probably won't be resolved until 2014. That's when provisions in the new health care law take effect to prevent insurers from denying coverage due to preexisting conditions.

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