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Cuomo urges New Yorkers to register as organ donors; issues guidance to insurance industry clarifying coverage for PrEP, related services

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Thu, Oct 8th 2020 09:00 pm

On New York State Organ Donor Enrollment Day, Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged residents to register as organ donors through the New York State Donate Life Registry. His office said the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted all areas of the health care system, including organ donation. The registry is “a safe and easy way to register to become an organ donor and give someone a second chance at life.”

"As we continue to fight against COVID-19, we once again have an opportunity to demonstrate New York's tremendous love and generosity by encouraging New Yorkers to become organ donors, saving more lives in the process," Cuomo said. "Unfortunately, the pandemic has caused declines in organ donations, and with so many awaiting lifesaving organ transplants, I encourage New Yorkers to become organ donors and join the NYS Donate Life Registry."

While most people who have COVID-19 fully recover, older people and those with preexisting medical conditions are most at risk of suffering damage to their lungs and other organs, as well, which has increased the need for organ donors.

More than 9,000 New Yorkers are among the 108,675 Americans currently awaiting an organ transplant, according to the U.S. Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network. More than 400 New Yorkers die each year because the organ they need is not donated in time, according to Donate Life NYS. Nationally, 22 people each day die while awaiting a match for a transplant, according to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration.

Every nine minutes, someone is added to the wait list, but one donor can save as many as eight lives and heal 75 lives through tissue and corneal donation.

Any New Yorker age 16 and older is eligible to enroll in the registry. Approximately 41% of eligible New York residents have enrolled to be organ donors through the registry.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Even while New York is at the forefront of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, we are working hard to encourage people to be organ, eye and tissue donors. Becoming an organ donor is a decision that not only save lives, but gives people waiting for a transplant a renewed chance at living active lives."

Department of Motor Vehicles Commissioner Mark J.F. Schroeder said, "There is no greater gift than the gift of life. We are proud offer our customers a chance to register to become organ donors and we hope all New Yorkers will take the opportunity to do so."

Donate Life New York State Executive Director Aisha Tator said, "We know New Yorkers overwhelmingly support organ and tissue donation, so New York Donor Enrollment Day is about turning that support into action and registering as many donors as possible. I know the combined efforts of Donate Life New York State, the donation community, NYS Department of Health and NYS DMV will go a long way to bring hope to the thousands of men, women and children currently waiting for a lifesaving transplant."

LiveOnNY President and CEO Helen Irving said, "New Yorkers have been through a lot this year, but in difficult times we always come together to support one another. We hope this Organ Donor Enrollment Day will inspire more people to learn about the power of organ donation and to have conversations about their end of life wishes. Just as masks save lives, so do life-saving organ donors. Let's come together to bring hope to the nearly 10,000 people in our state still waiting for a transplant." 

One can enroll online through the following online options:

The New York State Donate Life Registry website

The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles website

Under "Lauren's Law," DMV customers can also continue to register as an organ donor by completing the donation section of their driver license or non-driver ID renewal application.

The law is named for Lauren Shields, a Rockland County resident who received a life-saving heart transplant at age 9.

New Yorkers registering to vote can join the registry by completing that section of the voter registration paper or online form here. New Yorkers seeking health insurance through the NY State of Health Insurance Marketplace can enroll in the registry here, as well.

DMV also offers a Donate Life custom license plate to raise awareness and support critical research. When a consumer orders the plate, $20 of the annual fee is directed to the "Life Pass It On Trust Fund," which is used for organ donation and transplant research and educational programs promoting organ and tissue donation. Plates can be ordered on the DMV website here.

Cuomo signed an executive order in 2017 that made increasing the number of registered organ donors a priority, directing the State Health Department to work with all state agencies, Donate Life and other partners, to provide the public with additional opportunities to register as organ donors through the registry. New Yorkers also have the option of becoming an organ donor when applying for various licenses or certifications from the Department of Environmental Conservation, Department of State, or the Department of Health. People may also become an organ donor through the New York State of Health Official Health Plan Marketplace when applying for health insurance, where 246,073 people have enrolled.

More information about becoming an organ donor is available here.

DFS: Prohibiting Cost-Sharing for PrEP and Related Services for Consumers

Cuomo also announced the Department of Financial Services has issued a circular letter to New York-regulated health insurers, clarifying coverage for preexposure prophylaxis, known as PrEP, for the prevention of HIV infection and related services.

Cuomo said, "This guidance is clear: New Yorkers have access to PrEP coverage and related services without cost-sharing."

New York State Superintendent of Financial Services Linda A. Lacewell said, "As the federal government continues to dismantle access to quality health care, DFS will continue to uphold critical health coverage for consumers, regardless of their sexual orientation, gender identity, or transgender status, in collaboration with industry. New York-regulated health insurers must provide coverage for PrEP with no cost-sharing, including recommended tests and services associated with PrEP."

The USPSTF Final Recommendation Summary for PrEP, in the section on "Other Considerations, Implementation," also recommends that certain tests and services be provided to a person at high risk of HIV acquisition prior to prescribing PrEP or as ongoing follow-up and monitoring.

The circular letter issued today clarifies that, in the absence of federal guidance to the contrary, New York-regulated health insurers, except for grandfathered health plans, are required to cover any associated tests and services that are also recommended by the USPSTF with no cost-sharing.

Recognizing the importance of PrEP coverage for the prevention of HIV infection, DFS collaborated with the insurance industry to ensure that PrEP and related services are available to New Yorkers who need them.

Cuomo’s office said “It is critical that people who may benefit from PrEP be able to access and afford testing and follow-up services, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or transgender status, and DFS will act to ensure full compliance with today's circular letter, Insurance Circular Letter No. 21 (2017), and Supplement No. 1 to Insurance Circular Letter No. 21 (2019).”

Read a full copy of the circular letter on the DFS website.

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