Transplant is the preferred treatment option for kidney failure, freeing patients from dialysis, improving life expectancy, and greatly improving quality of life. According to a 2018 study in the American Journal of Transplantation, transplantation not only increases life expectancy and quality, it is cost effective even if non-ideal kidneys are transplanted. A sub-optimal kidney transplant is still preferable and more cost effective than additional years on dialysis.
Unfortunately, our current transplant system does not meet the demand. While approximately 100,000 Americans are awaiting a kidney transplant, only 22,817 received one in 2020, and less than one-third of those came from living donors. Further, almost 35% of deceased donor kidneys are discarded, even as 12 people die on the transplant wait list every day. The average wait time for a kidney transplant is 5 years but can be as long as 10 years in some states. Tens of thousands of patients are discouraged from adding their name to the wait list.
NKF promotes policies to increase living donation. The Living Donor Protection Act (S. 377 / H.R. 1255) would prevent insurance companies from denying, limiting, or charging higher premiums to organ donors for life, disability and long-term care insurance. We also advocate for living organ donors to be protected from job loss for donation through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Ask Congress to Support Living Donors
Immunosuppressive Drug Coverage for Kidney Patients: Under the leadership of NKF, Congress passed legislation in December 2020 to provide lifetime Medicare coverage for immunosuppressant drugs for any kidney transplant recipient who does not have other coverage for this benefit. Until this law passed, Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs for kidney recipients who are non-aged or non-disabled ended 36 months after surgery. Thankfully, patients and families are now no longer faced with worries on how to pay for these life-saving medications. Learn more about this new law here.
NKF wrote to HHS Secretary Becerra on Dec. 9, 2021 to urge the Department to move forward on the implementation process for extended Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplant recipients. Read the letter here.
NKF Response to CMS Request for Information on Transplant