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How Much Does a Kidney Donation Cost?

Jennifer Derba, Vice President of Accounting and Controller

If you are considering becoming a living kidney donor, you may be wondering how much it costs to donate a kidney. Ideally, donating a kidney should cost the donor nothing. In most cases, all medical expenses related to the donor’s evaluation, surgery, and postoperative care are paid for by insurance.

However, kidney donors may incur other costs that are not covered by insurance or other sources, such as lost wages for time off work, travel expenses, lodging, and childcare. Fortunately, financial assistance programs are available to cover these kidney donation costs.

The two main programs that reimburse kidney donation costs are the National Living Donor Assistance Center (NLDAC) and the National Kidney Registry’s Donor Shield program. Here’s what each offers.

Financial Assistance for Living Kidney Donation Through NLDAC

NLDAC, which is administered by a division of the United States Health and Human Services, offers reimbursement for lost wages (up to three days for evaluations and six weeks for surgery, recovery, and follow-ups), travel expenses (for the donor and a travel companion), and dependent care costs (up to $420 per week for childcare and up to $504 per week for adult care). Under NLDAC, the maximum reimbursement for all donation-related expenses is $6,000.

Financial Assistance for Living Kidney Donation Through Donor Shield

Donor Shield, offered through the National Kidney Registry, reimburses eligible kidney donors for donation-related expenses including lost wages (up to a maximum of $2,000 per week for up to six weeks, $12,000 total); travel, lodging, and meals (for the donor and a travel companion), and dependent care (up to a maximum of $6,000 for travel and dependent care combined). The maximum reimbursement for all donation-related costs is $18,000.

The Main Differences Between Donor Shield and NLDAC

Reimbursement Amount: NLDAC offers a maximum of $6,000 for all types of reimbursement, while Donor Shield offers a maximum of $18,000: $12,000 for lost wages and $6,000 for travel, meals, and dependent care.

Eligibility: Donor Shield coverage is available to all living kidney donors who donate through the National Kidney Registry at either an NKR Member Center or through a Donor Shield Direct transplant center. Household income is not considered. NLDAC considers the household income of both the donor and the recipient to determine eligibility. 

Available Funds: NLDAC is funded by a federal grant. Therefore, funds are limited, and can potentially run out. Donor Shield is fully funded by the National Kidney Registry, with no cap on payouts.

Primary vs. Secondary Coverage: Donor Shield is primary coverage, which means that you do not have to use any other type of coverage first before applying for reimbursement through Donor Shield. NLDAC assistance is secondary, which means it is only available to donors who are not covered by other types of assistance, such as state programs, health insurance, or the transplant recipient.

Learn more about the specific differences between Donor Shield and NLDAC.

If you have any financial questions about kidney donation, it’s important to thoroughly discuss the financial implications of your donation with your transplant center and medical team. Many transplant centers have social workers or financial coordinators who can help donors navigate the financial aspects and provide information on available resources and support. For more information about Donor Shield, visit https://www.donor-shield.org.

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