Sunday, November 9, 2008

Paying for Transplant Surgery - Can You Afford $500,000?

How much does an organ transplant cost?

For most of us, more than our house. FAR more. In 2007 the average price of a house was $266,200; the average estimated cost of a liver transplant was $519,600 ( Who has that kind of money in the bank?

My transplant expenses are close to a million dollars now, due to numerous complications and six months of Hepatitis C treatment (which alone cost thousands of dollars per month). I’m very fortunate: Our family has good medical insurance and the vast majority of our bills were covered by insurance. But we’re still paying off thousands of dollars worth of deductibles, co-payments and co-insurance. And some expenses are ongoing: Prescriptions run about $200 per month (that’s our out-of-pocket cost).

The expense of paying the transplant bills and ongoing medical costs is one issue. Our biggest challenge is the dramatic drop in household income combined with the expenses (because of illness I haven’t worked in more than two years). Do the math and it becomes starkly evident: We’re in financial hell.

We’re the lucky ones. Because we had good medical insurance I was able to have my transplant and we’re keeping afloat (well, we haven’t gone under yet!). I often wonder about transplant candidates who have little or no health insurance – what about them? I volunteer with a woman whose brother-in-law died of liver disease because he didn’t meet the financial criteria at his transplant center. Hearing about this shook me to my core. There but for the grace of God go I. And my cousin in Athens, Georgia, sent me a link to a community fundraiser for a 12-year-old girl who needs a liver transplant. (Visit for information or to make a donation for Olivia King’s transplant.)

Is it ethical to deny medical services to people who can’t pay? Is it fair to expect hospitals to absorb these expenses? I struggle with these questions and of course, I’m biased on the matter. What do you think? Please leave a comment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing such a traumatic and life-changing event. Your experience just goes to prove the old saying that "Every day above ground is a good day."