How kidney transplant reforms can save lives and reduce the deficit

DATE: June 4, 2024

By Max N. Rose & Thomas Reed II
The Hill, Opinion

For months, Congress has debated budget bill after budget bill, narrowly missing government shutdown deadlines seemingly every month. With a divided Congress and narrow majorities in both chambers, consensus on many topics seems hard to come by nowadays. 

Yet, lawmakers of both parties should embrace one area of reform that will save money and lives: kidney transplants and increasing living donations.

There are several reforms which, if properly aimed at improving the kidney transplant system, will save taxpayer money and improve healthcare outcomes. Currently, living kidney donation lacks meaningful federal support. While several nonprofits and dozens of transplant centers are doing impressive work, minimal federal resources are available to support individuals in need of a donation from a living donor and to support individuals who volunteer to donate a kidney and save a life.

Legislation is needed to build a comprehensive national living organ donor support system consisting of three building blocks. 

First, Congress must authorize kidney transplant navigators for transplant recipients and donors, building on the new Medicare “principal illness navigation” program. Second, Congress needs to clarify that living donors are entitled to appropriate cost reimbursement, building on existing law that already instructs Medicare to cover all reasonable expenses for living donors. And third, a national living donor education program should be adopted. Together, these key building blocks stack up to create common-sense legislation.

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