The medical transplant is an important topic for thousands of people around the world with chronic kidney disease. For those who receive a donated kidney, the transplant offers them the chance to live a freer life with fewer dietary restrictions. It is a complex subject that requires extensive information, time, and analysis before making the best decision.
How Much Does a Kidney Transplant Cost?
In most cases, kidney transplant surgeries are covered by health insurance policies. If you have health insurance then you will have to pay the doctor visit, lab exams, and prescription medicine out of your pocket, plus the coinsurance of 10% to 50% for surgery and other procedures. All of these could reach the yearly out-of-pocket maximum.
In case you don’t have health insurance you will have to pay around $262,000 or even more for a kidney transplant, including the costs of donor matching, pre-transplant screening, the surgery itself, care after surgery, and the drugs needed in the first six months after surgery. After that, the anti-rejection drugs will cost you around $17,500 per year.
From Vimo.com, a website that compares the costs of health care, we find out that the average cost of a kidney transplant is around $144,000 and if it is negotiated through a health insurance company, it will be around $34,000.
Transplant Living website states that the total expenses with a kidney transplant starting from the month before surgery until the end of the first six months post-surgery will be around $262,000, including more than $17,500 for medication. These expenses include the costs of the pre-surgery medical examinations, the surgery itself, hospitalization for any complications, care after surgery, and the anti-rejection medicine.
One of the most common formulas of anti-rejection medicine used by patients for the rest of their life includes Prednisone, mycophenolate mofetil (brand name Cell Cept), and tacrolimus (brand name Prograf). Depending on the dose, you will have to pay anywhere between $420 and $2,100 or even more for a one-month supply of the brand-name Prograf, if purchasing from DrugsDepot.com. At the same store, you will pay anywhere between $160 and $920 or even more for a one-month supply of generic tacrolimus, depending on the dose. Also, a one-month supply of the brand name CellCept will set you back more than $1,100. For Prednisone, you will spend less than $12 per month and for a generic mycophenolate mofetil, you will pay less than $35 per month.
Kidney transplant details
For a successful transplant, the recipient and the donor must be compatible. This means that both sides must have a compatible blood type and similar tissues, which reduces the risk of the donor’s kidney being rejected by the recipient’s body. Prior to surgery, several laboratory tests will be performed to verify compatibility.
There are two ways to receive a donated kidney: from a living person or from a deceased person. Living donors are usually relatives – one of the parents or a sibling – or a close individual such as a friend or spouse.
The main advantage of receiving a kidney from a living person is the time saved. As soon as you find someone compatible who wants to donate, the transplant process can begin.
On the other hand, receiving a kidney from a deceased donor, which usually comes from someone who has had an accident, requires patience. Once the name has been registered on the national transplant waiting list, there are no rules regarding the length of time until a compatible kidney is found.
Once a kidney donor has been found, the next step is surgery. Because the organs are very sensitive, the surgery must take place as soon as possible after finding the kidney.
After a final kidney check, surgery may begin. As long as your own kidneys do not cause an infection, the surgeon will usually choose to leave them in the body. The new healthy kidney will be placed next to them, in the abdomen, and will be connected to the renal artery and vein. This allows the blood to start circulating through the kidneys and the body can start producing urine.
After the transplant, you will need to take certain medicines, including immunosuppressants that reduce the risk of rejection. It is essential that you take all medications prescribed by your nephrologist to minimize this risk. However, because these drugs suppress your immune system, it is essential that you take great care of yourself after surgery.
In the end, the donated kidney lasts an average of 10-15 years because kidney function decreases over time. After this period, you have the option of returning to dialysis or waiting for a new kidney transplant.
What are the extra costs?
According to the American Kidney Fund, the patients have to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives, and this will cost around $17,500 per year.
In the unfortunate situation of a transplant failure, the recovery treatment cost could go up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. For instance, the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services says that the cost of treatment after a transplant failure, also known as “graft failure”, will be around $142,000. Around 55% of kidney transplants fail within ten years.
Important things to consider
Stanford University School of Medicine is at the forefront when it comes down to new transplant protocols. They have conducted clinical trials for a kidney-transplant process that might allow patients to live without anti-rejection drugs.
The National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse provides a guide containing information about the kidney transplant process for patients, their families as well as healthcare professionals.
There are many different types of dialysis and kidney transplants, but the National Kidney Center has compiled an easy-to-use chart to help you decide which option might be best for your needs. Their pros/cons list will tell patients everything they need to know about each treatment option so that when it comes to making a decision there isn’t much research to do.
The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients offers a map that allows users to search for centers offering transplants by address. The National Kidney Center also provides information about how one can choose a transplant center.
Emory Transplant Center offers clear, concise information to prepare you for your transplant process. From what happens before surgery to after it’s over as well as medications that may be prescribed during recovery time, this all is contained into a guide.
How can I save money?
If you are one of those patients that suffer from a kidney problem and need dialysis, regardless of your age you will be eligible for Medicare, which may pay up to 80% of the expenses of a kidney transplant. Though, the anti-rejection drugs are covered by Medicover only for 3 years. You can find more information about Medicover and other financial resources at the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse.
Cash-paying or uninsured patients may get a discount of up to 30% or even more from most hospitals. For instance, patients going to the Washington Hospital Healthcare System from California will get a discount of 35%.
HelpHOPELive is a nonprofit organization that helps patients raise money for transplants through community fundraising campaigns. The group charges 4%-7% as its fee, but it remains committed to helping those in need.