Charitable Premium Assistance from American Kidney Fund Helps Nearly 1,000 Dialysis Patients to Receive Transplants and Post-Transplant Care in 2018


Accounts for 5 percent of nation’s kidney transplants to date this year

ROCKVILLE, Md. (November 14, 2018)—Charitable assistance for health insurance premiums has made kidney transplants possible this year for nearly 1,000 low-income U.S. dialysis patients, the American Kidney Fund (AKF) reported today. These patients who have had transplants with financial help from AKF make up 5 percent of all U.S. kidney transplant recipients in 2018.

Ranging in age from 12 to 79 and hailing from 45 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, each of the patients first turned to AKF for help when they were on dialysis and could not afford the cost of their health insurance premiums. Most have been receiving assistance from AKF for multiple years. AKF’s grant assistance allowed them to be tested and join the waiting list for a kidney, have the transplant surgery, and then have post-transplant care for up to a year—a scope of kidney transplant financial assistance unmatched by any nonprofit organization in the United States. 

“For too many dialysis patients, lack of comprehensive health coverage puts kidney transplant out of reach.  Charitable premium assistance from AKF means that patients who might otherwise not be able to qualify are getting transplants,” said LaVarne A. Burton, AKF president and CEO. “AKF is deeply committed to providing charitable premium assistance because we know that it changes lives for the better.”

AKF’s transplant grant recipients are significantly more likely than the overall U.S. transplant population to have Medicare rather than private coverage as their primary insurance. Among AKF’s transplanted grant recipients so far in 2018, 75 percent have Medicare as their primary payer, compared to just 53 percent of the overall U.S. kidney transplant population this year.

Primary and secondary coverage is necessary for transplant, and AKF pays both primary and secondary; for example, assisting some patients with Medicare as primary coverage and an employer-provided plan as secondary. AKF helps patients pay for all types of health insurance, including Medicare Part B, Medigap, Medicare Advantage, employer group health, COBRA and commercial plans, including Affordable Care Act (ACA) plans.

Employer-provided health plans serve as primary payer for 18 percent of AKF’s transplanted grant recipients, with the remaining 7 percent in commercial plans, including ACA plans. This reflects the broader trend with AKF’s assistance program that a small minority of grant recipients choose ACA plans for specific reasons, such as lack of access to Medigap insurance in their state or a desire to remain on the same ACA insurance plan they had before they developed kidney failure. Nationally, 28 percent of kidney transplant patients this year have private insurers as primary payers.

Fifty-seven percent of AKF’s transplant grant recipients are members of racial and ethnic minority groups.

Close to 100,000 people are on the waiting list for a kidney transplant today. Beyond the severe shortage of donated kidneys, financial concerns and lack of health insurance have been cited by researchers as barriers to transplant, especially among minority patients.

Through the Health Insurance Premium Program (HIPP), AKF makes it possible for low-income patients with kidney failure to stay insured. Patients on dialysis have complex medical needs requiring care from numerous specialists in addition to their regular, life-sustaining dialysis treatments. With AKF paying their premiums, patients are assured of continuous coverage and access to all the medical care they need.

“Without assistance from the American Kidney Fund, my family would likely have ended up homeless,” said an AKF grant recipient and transplant patient from Southern California. Financial assistance from AKF helped keep his family afloat for eight years while he was on dialysis, and continuing assistance after his transplant has helped him get back on his feet and back into the workforce.

“Kidney failure can devastate an individual’s or a family’s finances, very often robbing a breadwinner of the ability to work. We are working to ensure that patients have access to the health care they need to stay alive, and for those healthy enough and fortunate enough to find a match, receive a kidney transplant,” said Burton.

Once an AKF charitable premium assistance grant recipient receives a transplant, AKF continues to pay their health insurance premiums for the full plan year as they adjust to life post-transplant and their health improves.

About the American Kidney Fund

As the nation’s leading independent nonprofit working on behalf of the 30 million Americans with kidney disease, the American Kidney Fund is dedicated to ensuring that every kidney patient has access to health care, and that every person at risk for kidney disease is empowered to prevent it. AKF provides a complete spectrum of programs and services: prevention outreach, top-rated health educational resources, and direct financial assistance enabling 1 in 5 U.S. dialysis patients to access lifesaving medical care, including dialysis and transplantation. AKF holds the highest ratings from the nation’s charity watchdog groups, including Charity Navigator, which includes AKF on its “top 10” list of nonprofits with the longest track records of outstanding stewardship of the donated dollar, and GuideStar, which has awarded AKF its Platinum Seal of Transparency.

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