23% of Donors Can’t Pay For A Transplant


I have written before about the inequality of the organ transplant system but the following information caused me and I hope you, too, to consider the topic again.  It is particularly important now because it is an election year and now is the time to put pressure on candidates to make changes in the current health care system.  Here is but another short chapter. 


According to a study by Southern Methodist University, http://www.smu.edu/newsinfo/excerpts/cardiac-donation-ethics.html)

“Twenty three (23) percent of organ donors are uninsured.” That means that despite being donors, they would not be eligible for transplants because they could not afford the cost of the procedure. The study goes on to say, “Financing an organ transplant out-of-pocket is prohibitive for all but the wealthiest of Americans. The estimated costs for a heart transplant during the first post-operative year is $478,900, according to the health-care consulting firm Milliman USA. Liver transplant patients typically incur about $393,000 in expenses during the first year”  (Important note…There is no cost associated with being a donor, the recipient’s insurance pays for all charges.  The recipient, though, must have the financial resources to pay for the procedure or he/she will likely be denied a new organ).


As an aside, this information makes LifeSharers claims of equity even more absurd, unless LifeSharers will pay the cost of a transplant for the approximately 23 percent of its 11,000 plus members (2,530 people) who presumably lack the finances to afford a transplant..


One approach that would make the system more equitable is a national healthcare system that would provide funding for those people who otherwise would fall through the cracks.  At this point, the United States is the only industrialized western nation that does not provide the kind of health care of which I speak.

Additionally, under a national or universal health care system we might be able to address the following sorry statistics: (http://cthealth.server101.com/the_case_for_universal_health_care_in_the_united_states.htm

  • The United States ranks 23rd in infant mortality, down from 12th in 1960 and 21st in 1990
  • The United States ranks 20 in life expectancy for women down from 1 in 1945 and 13 in 1960
  •  The United States ranks 21 in life expectancy for men down from 1st in 1945 and 17 in 1960.

If you really care about an equitable health plan in the U.S. write to your Congressperson or Senator now.  Election years are about the only time elected officials really listen…well, kind of.

Please comment in the space provided or email your thoughts to me at bob@baronson.org.  And – please spread the word about the immediate need for more organ donors.  There is nothing you can do that is of greater importance.  If you convince one person to be a donor you may save or positively affect over 60 lives.  Some of those lives may be people you know and love.

Please visit and join my Facebook site, ORGAN Transplantation Initiative http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=152655364765710  OR — my Facebook home Page http://www.facebook.com/?sk=messages&tid=10150094667020070#!/ .   The more members we get the greater our impact on increasing life saving organ donation.


About Bob Aronson

Bob Aronson is a former journalist, a Minnesota Governor's Press Secretary and talk show host. For nearly a quarter of a century, he led the Aronson Partnership, a Minnesota-based communications consultancy that prepared corporate and government executives for crisis situations, regulatory testimony, media interviews and Presentations. Among his clients were all three U.S. Mayo Clinic locations, 3M, general Mills, CH2M Hill, the U.S. Department of Energy and scores more. In 2007 bob had a heart transplant after suffering from idiopathic dilated cardiomyopathy for 12 years. Shortly after he got his new heart he founded the now 4,300 member Facebook support group, Organ Transplant Initiative. At the same time, he established the Bob's Newheart blog where he has posted nearly 300 columns on organ donation, transplantation and other health related issues. The Viewpoint blog was started in late 2016 and bears the name of the Radio Talk show Bob did from 1966 until 1974, when he resigned to become Minnesota Governor Rudy Perpich first Press secretary. Bob and his artist wife Robin, live in Jacksonville, Florida with their two dogs, Reilly and Ziggy. Bob is also a woodworker and makes all of the furnishings for Robin's art festival booth. He also makes one of a kind jewelry or "memories" boxes that he donates to select transplant patients, caregivers, donor families and others who have somehow contributed to making life easier for the ill, the elderly and the less fortunate. Bob is in the final stages of editing two full-length novels that will be available on Kindle when ready for release sometime in early 2017. One is a sci fi novel about an amazing discovery near Roswell, New Mexico and you will be surprised to find it has nothing to do with the Roswell story everyone knows. It features a woman scientist who investigates impact craters for the U.S. Department of the Interior, Dr. Rita Sylvester and her female student intern. The other book is a political thriller that introduces a new hero to the genre, Fargo Dennison.

Posted on June 10, 2008, in Universal Health Care and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. So my friend’s dad is uninsured and needs a liver transplant or he will die in a month. They say he has to pay like 600,000 up front or no go! What can they do? This is ridiculous!


  2. Yes, I was an organ donor and still am as is everyone in my family.


  3. If you aren’t eligible for a transplant, then you wouldn’t be on the UNOS lists, right? And the eligible LifeSharers are on the UNOS lists. Sooo… I guess inability to pay/being uninsured is the great equalizer in BOTH systems.

    As to guarantees… of course new members are informed, anybody who reads Lifesharers information can see that it is up to the family member/next-of-kin to contact LifeSharers and get a list of members who need organs. It is up to the member to make their wishes known, and impress upon that person or persons how important this is to them. And there are also several ways you can inform your medical doctors, etc… LifeSharers have done as much as is humanly possible for a member to make sure a LifeSharers member gets their organ. But back to guarantees… in this, as in everything, life isn’t perfect, and mistakes will most probably be made. Something like how, even when someone has authorized that they want to be an organ donor, and they are in a state where this is supposed to be the last word on it… they will still ask the family… who often say No…

    I am curious Bob… this is a serious question… were you an organ donor before you received your new heart? I’m assuming you are now, since you write so much about organ donation, and how important it is. But I’m curious to know if you were before the transplant.


  4. Medicare will help pay for a transplant only if you have earned enough credits while employed and havecontributed to the Medicare tax fund. If you haven’t you don’t qualify. Then your option is state Medicaid. However, Medicaid may not be enough if you cannot demonstrate the financial ability to pay for post-transplant medications after the 3 year Medicaid/Medicare funding for such medication expires. If you can’t prove it; no transplant! You can’t even get on the transplant list.

    As for costs to donors, please be aware, despite what Mr. Moi states, many families of donors and/or donor estates have been charged fees directly or indirectly for donating or attempting to donate organs. In September, 2005, a Mesa, Colorado man who had signed a donor card killed himself. He was transported via helicopter to St. Mary’s Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado and his organs were recovered. The local coroner ruled he was not declared officially dead prior to his organs being removed and the OPO abandoned the organs. The family was charged $7,000.00 for air transportation. Also, a 5 year old boy in Pueblo, Colorado was critically injured in a 2001 motor vehicle accident. His parents were asked to donate his organs. The boy was kept alive until the organ recovery team arrived 3 days later. The fee charged for those 3 days was $30,000.00. The co-pay for those 3 days in the ICU was $6,000.00. These are but 2 examples rebutting Moi’s assertion. There are too many other similar cases to cite here. Want more tales of horrors from the OPO? Google Ruben Navarro, California Donor Network and their organ recovery surgeon, now charged with murder, Dr. Roozrokh.

    Remember, no patient has an organ donated to them no matter how critical the medical need. These ‘donated’ organs are sold! The OPO will put lipstick on the pig and respond it is illegal to sell organs in the US. It is for everyone except the OPO. In reviewing the IRS 990 tax records of these so-called nonprofits for 2006, total revenue for all OPO across the country was in excess of $2 billion. As David Kasserman, medical economist, said in his book, “Everyone in transplants make money except the donors and the patients.” Want proof? Go to Denver Post of 10/19/04, Nonprofit executives say salaries justified.

    By the way, I am the recipient of a kidney (10/20/04) from an altruistic, non-related, living donor. UNOS attempted to stop my transplant. The question in my mind then was, WHY? After 3 years of research I have found the answer is, MONEY! The unholy alliance of the UNOS/OPTN/OPO had no legal ability to charge for living donor organs. They are trying to change that past prohibition now. Hopefully, an upcoming Congressional investigation will help change the system and put a few people running 501 c 3 organizations related to human organ procurement and other members of the unholy alliance will face the music in federal criminal court.


  5. Obviously I don’t meanto overstate the problem DJU. But you have avoided addressing the issue I posed. Does LifeSharers inform new members or the general public for that matter that being a member guarantees nothing. Not only is there no greater chance of getting a transplant but even if they could, they might not be able to pay for it. But — maybe LifeSharers picks up the tab.


  6. There is NO cost to the donor after death. There is a cost very little to a live donor for kidney, but someone that is signed up as a donor after death has NO NO cost you need to check your facts. I’am a transplant person and am the Director of a 501 c 3 called The Donor Project. To make people think there is a cost involived in being a donor you need to retract!!


  7. Medicare pays the cost of a kidney transplant for anyone who enrolls. Kidney transplants are about 60% of all transplants. So your 23% figure overstates the problem significantly.


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