His friends and family have rallied

His friends and family have rallied

His friends and family have rallied, flocking to fundraisers that ranged from hair salon cut-a-thons to golf tournaments, raising nearly $115,000 so far for transplant-related care.
Allowing financial factors to determine who gets a spot on the waiting list strikes many as unfair, Caplan said.
“It may be a source of anger, because when we’re looking for organs, we don’t like to think that they go to the rich,” he said. “In reality, it’s largely true.”
Nearly half of the patients waiting for organs in the U.S. have private health insurance, UNOS data show. The rest are largely covered by the government, including Medicaid, the federal program for the disabled and poor, and Medicare.
Medicare also covers kidney transplants for all patients with end-stage renal disease. But, there’s a catch. While the cost of a kidney transplant is covered for people younger than 65, the program halts payment for anti-rejection drugs after 36 months. That leaves many patients facing sudden bills, said Tonya Saffer, vice president of health policy for the National Kidney Foundation.
Legislation that would extend Medicare coverage for those drugs has been stalled for years.
For Alex Reed, 28, of Pittsburgh, who received a kidney transplant three years ago, coverage for the dozen medications he takes ended Nov. 30. His mother, Bobbie Reed, 62, has been scrambling for a solution.
“We can’t pick up those costs,” said Reed, whose family runs an independent insurance firm. “It would be at least $3,000 or $4,000 a month.”
Prices for the drugs, which include powerful medications that prevent the body from rejecting the organs, have been falling in recent years as more generic versions have come to market, Saffer said.
But “the cost can still be hard on the budget,” she added.
It’s been a struggle for decades to get transplants and associated expenses covered by insurance, said Dr. Maryl Johnson, a heart failure and transplant cardiologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
“It’s unusual that there’s 100 percent coverage for everything,” said Johnson, a leader in the field for 30 years.
GoFundMe efforts have become a popular way for sick people to raise money. About a third of the campaigns on the site target medical needs, the company said.
But when patients need to raise money, they should use fundraising organizations specifically aimed at those costs, transplant experts say, including HelpHopeLive, the National Foundation for Transplants and the American Transplant Foundation.
There’s no guarantee funds generated through such general sites such as GoFundMe will be used for the intended purpose. In addition, the money likely will be regarded as taxable income that could jeopardize other resources, said Michelle Gilchrist, president and chief executive for the National Foundation for Transplants.
Her group, which helps about 4,000 patients a year, has raised $82 million for transplant costs since 1983, she said. Such efforts usually involve a huge public relations push. Still, 20 percent of the patients who turn to NFT each year fail to raise the needed funds, Gilchrist said.
In those cases, the patients don’t get the organs they need. “My concern is that health care should be accessible for everyone,” she said, adding: “Ten thousand dollars is a lot to someone who doesn’t have it.”
Every transplant center in the U.S. has a team of social workers and financial coordinators who help patients negotiate the gaps in their care. Lara Tushla, a licensed clinical social worker with the Rush University transplant program in Chicago, monitors about 2,000 transplant patients. She urges potential patients to think realistically about the costs they’ll face.
“The pharmacy will not hand over a bag full of pills without a bag full of money,” she said. “They will not bill you. They want the copays before they give you the medication.”
Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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