Article

Financial implications of kidney donation

Medically reviewed by
AKF's Medical Advisory Committee
Last updated
November 2, 2021

Being a living kidney donor can be very rewarding. You may get to help a loved one regain their health, give a friend the chance to get off dialysis or even save a stranger's life. If you are a person with kidney disease and trying to decide if a transplant is right for you, you might be wondering how it could affect your life. Below, learn about the financial implications of kidney donation.

Who pays for the cost of kidney donation?

Medicare, or the kidney recipient's private insurance, will cover the direct costs of kidney donation such as medical testing, surgery and some medicines for the kidney recipient. However, there are some indirect costs of donating a kidney that Medicare or private insurance may not cover, such as travel costs or lost wages due to taking time off work.

Does insurance cover the costs?

Medicare or the kidney recipient's private insurance will cover the medical costs of testing and surgery, both for the kidney donor and recipient. However, most insurance plans do not cover:

  • Time off from work or the cost of childcare. However, donors and recipients may qualify for sick leave, disability pay or paid family leave (FMLA).
  • Meals
  • Parking and gas
  • Hotel costs during testing, surgery and recovery. However, some transplant hospitals offer free or low-cost housing.
  • Travel costs, such as plane tickets

What other costs can there be for kidney donors?

Sometimes, donating a kidney can affect the donor's ability to get or afford disability or life insurance.

What other costs can there be for kidney recipients?

The biggest expense for kidney recipients after a transplant are the medicines to take for as long as the kidney lasts to prevent their body from rejecting it. These medicines can be costly and not all of these costs are covered by insurance.

Medicare Part B coverage for the medicines a recipient will need after a transplant varies depending on your age:

  • Under age 65*: Medicare Part B covers most of the medicines a recipient will need for three years after transplant surgery.
  • Under age 65 but with a disability: If the kidney recipient is under age 65 and gets Social Security Disability for medical issues other than kidney failure, medicines may be covered by Medicare Part B past the three-year period.
  • Age 65 or older: If the kidney recipient is 65 or older and has Medicare, Medicare Part B will cover the cost of the medicines for the life of the transplant.  

*Beginning on January 1, 2023, Medicare Part B will begin to cover these medicines for the life of the transplant, regardless of your age.

Do I get paid to donate a kidney?

No. Getting paid to donate a kidney is illegal in the United States and most other countries. Most living donors decide to donate because they want to help a family member or friend or because they simply want to do good. 

Where can kidney donors and recipients get help paying expenses?

The National Living Donor Assistance Center (NLDAC) offers programs to help cover the cost of lost wages or travel for living donors who qualify. 

Many states also offer tax deductions or credits to living kidney donors. Contact your state's Department of Revenue to learn more. 

For more information on financial help, talk to your dialysis center social worker.