Gov. J.B. Pritzker has signed a law intended to prevent discrimination against living organ donors. It will apply to employers and insurance companies.
Megan Craig said she made the best decision of her life at age 25. That’s when she donated a kidney to 20-month-old Evan Simms. Eight years later, Simms is alive and well and resides in South Wilmington. And Craig works at the National Kidney Foundation of Illinois.
“People would think that donors automatically don't face things like discrimination for life insurance coverage, or that people can't be fired for taking time off to be a living donor,'' she said. "But until now, technically, in Illinois, those things were possible and did happen. With the passage of this bill, living donors can donate without fear of repercussions from their employers or from those life insurance companies."
Kevin Cmunt, president and CEO of the Gift of Hope Organ & Tissue Donor Network, said the law may ease donors’ fears of financial consequences.
“Altruistic donors are incredible people. And the fact that they're giving a part of themselves to save a friend or even a stranger, they shouldn't be asked to give up, you know, their time off or financial compensation,’’ he said. “And I think it's a vehicle to help us promote living donation throughout the state.”
Cmunt said said outcomes are better with living donors than with cadavers.
Last year, there were about 4,000 Illinoisans on a waiting list for a kidney. Only one in five kidney transplants come from a living donor.
According to a press release from Gov. J.B. Pritzker, “The new law prohibits employers from retaliating against an employee for requesting or obtaining a leave of absence to undergo an organ donation and prohibits insurance companies from denying coverage or increasing premiums or rates for living donors for disability, life and long-term care insurance." It also tasks the Secretary of State with creating and maintaining an opt-in organ and tissue donor registry. "
Laura Minzer, president of the Illinois Life Insurance Council, said her group initially had concerns about the legislation but helped clarify language to resolve those.
The law takes effect at the beginning of next year.