"No Good Deed Goes Unpunished": Kidney Donation, Irony, and Health Reform

I had initially missed this story from a New York Times blog last month.  KidneyDonor I don’t know whether it moves me to cry, laugh, or curse, but it is a nice example of some of the perversities of our health care system.

Four years ago, a 27 year old woman was suffering from kidney failure as a result of systemic lupus.  Her father, a healthy 49 year old, was able to donate one of his kidneys to her.  She’s now doing great – and he has no health insurance.  Both Blue Cross and Blue Shield rejected his applications for health coverage, apparently – the Blues aren’t explaining – because of fears of his future health with only one kidney.

This has particular resonance for me because the CLB put on a panel in the spring about altruistic donation with an altruistic kidney donor and an altruistic blood-forming stem cell donor (the latter donated through apheresis rather than through bone marrow donation), as well as a transplant surgeon. (We’ll get the audio recording up soon and link it here.)

In what world do we punish a father for donating a kidney his daughter by taking away his own health coverage?  I suppose I should have said, less rhetorically, “in what country”?  Happily, the recently upheld health reform legislation  guarantees the father coverage.  Of course, having survived (barely) the Supreme Court doesn’t mean it will survive the political process.

Hank Greely

PS  Bonus points to anyone who comes up with an authoritative source for the phrase in the title.  I didn’t find one.  The now largely forgotten Claire Booth Luce seems to lead the Internet’s plausible list, but no particular source is given and the list of suspects is long.