Saving Lives While Saving Money

DATE: August 15, 2023

The Living Kidney Donor Support Act would benefit tens of thousands of Americans and save billions of tax dollars.

By Ike Brannon
CATO Institute

The United States does not have enough transplant kidneys to provide one to each person suffering from end‐​stage kidney disease who would benefit from a transplant. This shortage is costly to the people who end up waiting longer for transplant or who die awaiting one; to taxpayers, who pay most of the health care costs of people with end‐​stage kidney disease; and to the broader economy, which loses the talents of people suffering from kidney failure.

In 2022, U.S. hospitals performed 25,000 kidney transplants. About 6,000 of the organs came from living donors. Over 500,000 people are currently on dialysis and nearly 100,000 are on a transplant waiting list. An estimated 30 percent of transplants are pre‐ emptive: if not for the transplant, the recipient would go on dialysis.

Many good candidates for transplant are not placed on the waiting list. Some are discouraged from going to the trouble and expense of being evaluated to receive a deceased donor kidney. Some physicians hesitate to refer patients for evaluation to spare them the risks of some diagnostic procedures (such as a coronary angiography) and the disappointment of not being approved for the list. Most transplant centers use stringent criteria for placing patients on the list to increase the likelihood of successful transplants.

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