NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


March 20, 2007

There were 6,196 living-organ donors last year.  The recipient's health insurance typically pays for the donor's medical costs such as the surgery and various pre- and post-op tests, but donors are on their own for the rest: travel expenses for the numerous trips to the hospital, nearby hotel rooms before and after procedures and wages lost while they recuperate.

Transplant advocates fear those costs are a deterrent to donating, and so have been searching for ways to compensate living donors, who can give kidneys, bone marrow and a few other body parts.

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine may weigh in on the question when he decides whether to sign a bill that would authorize an income tax deduction of as much as $5,000 for living donors to help cover uncompensated expenses:

  • The proposal is modeled after a $10,000 deduction that Wisconsin enacted in 2004.
  • At least 10 other states have adopted similar incentives, and more are considering it.
  • The federal government and some states -- including Maryland and Virginia -- give their employees 30 paid days off if they donate an organ.

Advocates have asked large companies to follow suit. But such measures, while appreciated by many donors, haven't solved their financial problems.

Those who hoped a tax break might attract more donors have been disappointed.  Since the Wisconsin law passed, living-organ donations there have dropped from 199 in 2004 to 167 last year.

That's just the normal ebb and flow of organ donations, said the bill's sponsor, state Rep. Steve Wieckert.  As the tax-break idea gains traction around the country, he predicts, organ donations will increase.

Source: Jason Feifer, "Paying Big to Be A Donor; Gifting an Organ Can Be Costly. Would a Tax Break Cross a Moral Line?" Washington Post, March 20, 2007.

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