Reducing the Organ Waiting List: Key Actions and Opportunities for the Future

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Summary: New Federal and private-sector actions to help more people access organs transplants.
There are more than 119,000 Americans waiting for a life-saving organ transplant. Each day, twenty-two people die waiting. In addition to the tremendous human cost to individual patients, the waiting list carries a substantial cost to the public purse as well. For example, dialysis for end-stage renal disease (ESRD) is often grueling for patients in addition to being costly for taxpayers. To put that in perspective, Medicare spends $34 billion per year on ESRD—more than the entire budget of the National Institutes of Health. The President’s Council of Economic Advisers has estimated that each additional kidney transplant has the potential to generate $60,000 in Federal savings per year, making increasing access to transplantation a major opportunity to not only improve health but also reduce health care spending.

Federal government actions to help patients waiting for transplant have included:

In 2001, the Department of Health and Human Services launched the national Gift of Life Donation Initiative to increase organ, tissue, marrow, and blood donation;
In 2007, the Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA) began funding the National Living Donor Assistance Center to reduce financial barriers to living organ donation;
In 2010, the enactment of the Affordable Care Act offered greater security to living donors by prohibiting insurers from denying health coverage to someone with a preexisting condition, including having donated an organ;
In 2013, the bipartisan HOPE Act paved the way for the first transplants in the United States between HIV-positive donors and recipients;
In 2016, the White House hosted an Organ Summit to spotlight commitments from diverse stakeholders to reduce the waiting list.
The actions below provide an update on new, common-sense steps to reduce the waiting list and improve patient outcomes.

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Separate Alliance Note:

The Alliance appreciates that our kidney utilization project is mentioned in this article. Congratulations to all of our colleagues across the nation for their continued efforts.

Additional References:

For context, previous June White House Organ Summit Fact Sheet:

Previous White House Organ Summit blog:

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