Does reimbursement by the government have an effect on living-donor kidney transplants?
That was the question raised—and answered—by a new study by Schar School of Policy and Government researchers. The findings were important, said principal researcher Naoru Koizumi, a professor of public policy, because, with the evidence gained by studying economies that practice living donation, “it’s important for both developed and developing countries to take measures to improve access to kidney transplants as well.”
Improved access to legally donated kidneys reduces the sales of illicitly harvested organs, she added. Black market kidneys range from $2,000 to $50,000 depending on the country.
The study, called The Impact of Country Reimbursement Programs on Living Kidney Donations, was published this week in the journal BMJ Global Health. Read the findings.
Living-donor kidney transplants are vital to those with end-stage kidney disease. But the cost of donating a kidney prevents many viable donors from donating. A typical kidney transplant “package” ranges from $70,000 to $160,000 in the U.S.
The report looked at 23 countries that have reimbursement programs and 86 other countries that do not, said researcher Abu Bakkar Siddique, a PhD in Public Policy student at the Schar School. “However, we did find that reimbursement programs contributed to a higher level of living donations in relatively low- and middle-income economies that have GDP per capita of less than $50,000,” he said.
“The impact was statistically insignificant among higher income economies like economies that have a GDP per capita higher than $50,000,” he added, citing the U.S. as one of the countries where reimbursement would not be statistically significant.
Live-donor reimbursement by government or nongovernment entities increases the living donation rate by 17 percent, according to the study.
“In countries that do not reimburse, that does not mean they do not have living donations, but they do not enjoy this increasing rate of living donation that results from the reimbursement program,” Siddique said. “Therefore, we recommend these countries to introduce this program to minimize their shortage of kidney supply.”