Transplant :: Teens may lose transplanted organs when insurance runs out

A new study shows that young transplant patients in the US who lose their insurance coverage are more likely to stop taking necessary anti-rejection drugs, which can increase the risk of losing the transplanted organs. The study appears in the latest issue of Pediatric Transplantation.

“Immunosuppressive drugs that prevent organ rejection are incredibly expensive; the cost can exceed $13,000 a year,” says study author Dr. Mark Schnitzler. “This represents a significant financial burden for families no matter if they have adequate health insurance coverage because of co-payment obligations.”

If families can not afford medicine, it can mean losing the transplanted organ or even death. “Outcomes for children whose families are uninsured are very poor,” says Dr. Schnitzler. Young adults from the ages of 18 to 23 face the greatest risk, as 30 percent of this age group lacks medical coverage. Even when families do have coverage after a transplant, it can run out 36 to 44 months post-transplant or when the child reaches adulthood.

“New policies and solutions including public lifetime coverage for pediatric kidney transplant recipients, that are expected to be cost-saving to our society in the long run, must be put forth and evaluated,” says Schnitzler. “Effective coverage to meet the healthcare requirements of pediatric transplant recipients as they transition to adulthood needs to be made accessible so that our society does not continue to prematurely lose this promising pool of young adults.”

For families trying to make some difficult decisions, Dr. Schnitzler advises them to retain their insurance, as the cost of insurance is more affordable in the long term than the expense of transplant failure and hospital stays. “Pediatric transplant recipients have every desire to become independent and useful members of society. To achieve that goal, they need to keep their transplants healthy, and immunosuppressive drugs will help them to do so.”

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