kidney transplants and dialysis

Outrageous news from the USA.

Although Medicare is primarily an insurance program for older Americans and the disabled, it has since 1973 covered those with end-stage renal disease, regardless of their age or condition.

The federal program now pays for most costs associated with dialysis and transplantation. But for patients younger than 65, coverage of the anti-rejection dugs — which can run from $1,000 to $3,000 a month — ends after three years. If patients cannot afford the medications, they may lose their donated kidneys and have to return to dialysis while awaiting another transplant.

The policy is widely regarded as pound-foolish. Medicare spends an average of $17,000 a year on kidney transplant recipients, most of it for the anti-rejection drugs, compared with $71,000 a year on dialysis patients and $106,000 for a transplant.

Kevin Sack, “Plan for Kidney Drugs Spurs Division”, New York Times, 15 December 2009.

House Democrats have tabled a proposal to extend Medicare coverage of transplant patients beyond the current limit of 36 months. To pay for the extra coverage, the proposal requires Medicare to “set a flat fee for dialysis treatments and related medications that some providers say would not cover costs”. Those in the business of providing dialysis are lobbying against the proposal. This “supporters of the measure fear … may make it easy for Congress to kill the provision altogether”.

The news story raises a number of questions. Isn’t it possible for a country as wealthy as the USA to provide proper medical care for those who suffer from kidney disease? Why does provision of anti-rejection drugs to transplant recipients have to come at the expense of caring for those who lack a functioning kidney? Can’t US taxpayers afford to support both groups?

Tags: ,

One Response to “kidney transplants and dialysis”

  1. […] See the original post here: kidney transplants and dialysis « Thought du Jour […]