The U.S. has an equity problem in kidney transplantation, with great disparities among transplant rates for Black and Hispanic patients compared to white patients.
Why it’s important: Black patients make up 13% of the U.S. population but account for 35% of patients with kidney failure — and only 7% of this group receives a kidney transplant within three years of diagnosis.
Patients with kidney failure require a kidney transplant or dialysis — at least three times per week, up to four hours per treatment — to sustain life.
The challenge: Dialysis patients of color are less likely to receive a kidney transplant.
Regardless of their 23% higher rates of referral to transplant centers compared to white patients, Black patients are:
The idea: Improving health equity within kidney transplantation requires solutions and collaboration from policymakers and leaders across the kidney and transplant communities.
In late 2020, Congress signed into law legislation, known as the “Immuno Bill”, that guarantees lifetime Medicare coverage of immunosuppressive drugs for kidney transplant recipients versus its current cap at three years.
The Immuno Bill, which will go into effect in 2023, is a game-changer for patients with kidney failure and is poised to help address gaps in health disparities.
The reason: Immunosuppressive drugs suppress a recipient’s immune system so the body doesn’t reject the new organ — skipping even one dose increases the likelihood of organ failure.
Through the Immuno Bill, Medicare is set to save up to $73 million over a 10-year period as fewer transplant recipients return to dialysis.
What you need to know: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently finalized a rule that will give dialysis providers more flexibility and accountability to improve transplant rates among patients of color.
Next steps: Fixing immunosuppressive drug coverage is one of a few key ways to help improve health equity in transplantation in the U.S. But it’s not a silver bullet. There is more work to do.
Other longstanding biases and policies still hinder equitable access:
DaVita is committed to helping the transplant system overcome these health disparities by:
Learn more about DaVita’s efforts to create an equitable future for kidney transplants.