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H.R. 7770 would protect jobs of those donating bone marrow to save lives
June 17 2022
MINNEAPOLIS – The Life Saving Leave Act (H.R. 7770) was just introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to protect the jobs of volunteer bone marrow and blood stem cell donors. U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips (D-MN) authored the bill to create national donor job protection that would allow donors to take up to 40 non-consecutive, unpaid hours of leave to donate life-saving bone marrow and blood stem cells.
“There is simply no reason for anyone to be at risk of losing their job when it comes to potentially saving a life,” said Rep. Phillips. “We must do more to protect the jobs of bone marrow and blood stem cell donors by ensuring that they have the flexibility to take time off without consequence. This bill will help us do just that by creating a federal standard that allows more people to say yes to being a life-saving match for a patient in need.”
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“Congressman Phillips understands that creating a national baseline to protect the jobs of donors will enable more donors to say ‘yes’ when they get the call that could save the life of a patient in need,” said Brian Lindberg, National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match Chief Policy Officer.
The Life Saving Leave Act allows employees to take up to 40 non-consecutive, unpaid hours without using their established paid time off or sick leave. The legislation would ensure a donor’s job is protected while they are involved in the bone marrow or blood stem cell donation process. Each year, fewer than 10,000 potential donors are called, but each donation represents a patient whose survival is dependent on their donor’s cells.
H.R. 7770 bridges the gap that many donors face in needing time off work to donate. While NMDP/Be The Match helps potential donors by providing wage replacement and support services, it cannot guarantee the donor job security.
“Congress can support blood cancer and blood disease patients by approving this straight-forward legislation to provide job protection for donors asked to save the life of a stranger,” said Lindberg. “This is a common-sense approach that would make it easy for both the employer and employee to help provide a life-saving cure to someone in need.”
Bone marrow and blood stem cell transplants can cure or treat over 75 otherwise fatal diseases or conditions, including blood cancers and sickle cell disease. Yet 70 percent of patients do not have a matching donor in their family. They rely on NMDP/Be The Match for a second chance at life.
Donors are asked to spend about 40 hours spread over several weeks away from work in preparation to potentially save a patient’s life. The time commitment may include meetings with a donation coordinator, providing blood samples, a physical exam and injections of a pre-donation medication administered over five days for most donors. In 40 percent of cases, some travel is involved during the donation process, which includes getting to the donation site, completing the donation, and recovering for a short time.
The Life Saving Leave Act also helps to close the gap of available donors for under-represented populations on the registry, including ethnic and racial minorities.
Patients and donors are matched by their genetic background, which means they usually share the same race and ethnicity. Black and African American, Asian and Pacific Islander, Hispanic and Latino, and Native American donors have reported more barriers to donating. What this means for patients of the same ethnic background is that they have fewer donor options, in addition to already having a lower representation on the Registry.
Unfortunately, the likelihood a patient has a fully matched donor on the registry varies from 79% for white patients to just 29% for Black patients. Removing the fear that potential donors could lose their jobs should help narrow that gap.
“The Life Saving Leave Act would reduce barriers for bone marrow and blood stem cell donors nationwide,” said Lindberg. “No one should have to risk losing their job to save a life and we are grateful that Representative Phillips has championed this effort.”
About National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match®
For people with life-threatening blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma, a cure exists. National Marrow Donor Program (NMDP)/Be The Match connects patients with their donor match for a life-saving marrow or cord blood transplant and works to identify and eliminate financial and other barriers faced by these patients. NMDP also provides patients and their families one-on-one support, education, and guidance before, during, and after transplant.